The members of Jewish Artists Collective Chicago write about our stories, struggles, experiences, and musings, and how they inspire us to create contemporary Jewish art.

Challah Midrash

by Jane Weintraub

As an artist at my core, I approach life like a work of art. Of course, there are days when I’m less successful and productive than others, but the joy I take in approaching most tasks with a creative attitude is its own reward.

Each week at my synagogue someone bakes challah in response to the week’s parsha. I was putting off volunteering, but then the spirit inside arose. My mother’s yartzeit was coming up and I thought it a fitting tribute to her to try my hand at the “art“ of challah – and no, my mother never baked challah that I know of!

The week’s Torah portion was Achrei Mot– Kedoshim. In it, God tells Moses of the many ethical and ritual laws designed to help people live lives of holiness. The now famous “love your neighbor as yourself” is part of it.

I decided to focus my challah efforts on the rituals for the first ever Day of Atonement. Among other things, Aaron is asked to bring two goats to the tabernacle, lots were drawn and one goat was to be sacrificed to God and one, the Azazel (meaning scapegoat or evil spirit of the universe), was to be cast out into the wilderness. One goat, the goat for God was to be pure. Aaron was then instructed to place his hands on the Azazel and transfer all of the transgressions of the Israelites onto it. The Azazel was then led out to the wilderness and set free.

Did the goat get lost, die of starvation, get attacked by predators or did the goat find a good place, thrive, reproduce and live a long life? We don’t know the answer, but the question leads me to possibility and potential. Whatever our failings and wrongdoings, there is always a chance to change. Hope is never lost, there is always an opportunity to find our way out of the wilderness.