Cakes on Shabbat

May 27, 2016

Every week, Jody Hirsh, the JCC's Judaic Education Director, provides a Judaic message that is featured at the top of the JCC's weekly email newsletter. Below is the Shabbat message for Friday, May 27, 2016

Cakes on Shabbat

Kibbutz Historian Muki Zur, who is a member of Kibbutz Ein Gev used to talk about a Kibbutz phenomenon – stealing cakes on Shabbat in the middle of the night. According to Muki, it was a wide spread custom on the secular kibbutzim in Palestine and later Israel that the kitchen staff would bake special cakes to eat for breakfast on Shabbat. “I don’t know why,” he used to say, “but all the kibbutzim did it.” However, the Kibbutzniks would raid the kitchen in the middle of the night for a midnight snack of the cakes that were intended for breakfast. Consequently, there often weren’t enough cakes in the morning. The cooks would lock the kitchen, but someone always figured out how to get into the kitchen. Then the cooks would hide the cakes, and it became an ongoing game: where did they hide the cakes? And still, there would be missing cakes in the morning.

When I heard Muki tell the story and tell us that he had no idea where this kibbutz tradition came from, I was struck by the fact that Muki came from a totally secular kibbutz tradition and didn’t realize that, in fact, cake for breakfast has its roots in a religious tradition.

Last week we looked at the tradition of eating three meals on the Sabbath, and I mentioned that breakfast is not considered one of those three meals. Technically, in Jewish tradition, a meal is defined as a meal that includes bread. We say the blessing over the bread, and say the long Birkat haMazon (Grace after the meal) over any meal that had bread. Since the fact that there are three meals on the Sabbath is so important, many traditional Jews eat coffee cake in the morning for breakfast rather than bread so breakfast won’t be defined as a “meal.” Hence, unknown to the kibbutzniks, they were actually participating in a traditional religious practice by eating cake for breakfast!

Shabbat Shalom