Babka Is Back


I don’t usually do this but to “get” this blog you might like to go back a few months to the blog of January 17th titled, “Is It Good Enough?” It was about these blue cards I found that date back to the 70’s – sermons – typed – like on a typewriter – and filed away, forgotten till now.

I was reluctant to read them, not knowing what I would find: Were they good; have I grown; did I bring insight and meaning to my listeners? They are my “chameitz” – the yeast that causes the dough to rise. Passover is over but all that attention to labels and order freed me from the power of the past to bubble up and control me. Passover worked for me; it gave me the ability to start again knowing the doubts and sense of inadequacy would be back, but that’s why we play this Seder game year after year.

So the genie is out of the box. I’ve opened the files and on a beautiful Florida day, I schlepped them outside and sat in the sun reading my past. It helped that our granddaughter, Sammy, was sitting next to me. So here are a few reflections.

They are mostly High Holy Day Sermons and they are mostly too long. I think I love my words too  much and find it hard to hit the delete button. But they are interesting in ways that surprise me. Themes reoccur: I talk a lot about my self and what I am struggling with (as a parent, a teacher, a believer, a skeptic). I talk a lot about Israel; it is fascinating to see  how that conversation has changed over the years.

There are some good stories that I have forgotten and can probably use again. Like: “When a Yeshiva student came to his Rebbe and boasted that he had gone through the Talmud five times, the Rebbe turned and asked: ‘And how many times has the Talmud gone through you?’” It leads me to ask: How much have these words gone through me?

My eyes were better then. I can’t believe the size of the typewriter font. But was my vision? I’m impressed that even then when Israel’s survival was sometimes in doubt, I thought out loud “survival can not be enough. We cannot be dependent on our enemies to define us.” Why be Jewish is not a rhetorical question; it touches the heart and the soul of each of us.

Forty years ago, in 5736, (I dated my files by the Jewish year), I announced, “Babka is back” and in 5776 its back again. According to the Today show it is here to replace the cronut as the latest pastry obsession. Everything is cyclical or as we use to say in New Jersey: “What goes around comes around”. But that has a somewhat different connotation and usually involved a little bit of self-satisfying glee. It is good to be right. Which brings me to an ending. I wasn’t always good. I wasn’t always smart. But I tried and sweated out every word. I tried to reach beyond the lectern. I laughed when I read one of my sermon openings: “Relax – let down your defenses – I am not here to yell at you. I am here to search with you.”  Yes – for leaven, for yeast, for anything that can help us rise above ourselves.

And by the way or to the point:  where is there good Babka in South Florida (chocolate – the deep dark rich kind that doesn’t crumble when you cut it, that can be toasted and spread with butter.)?  OMG, I’m in trouble.




13 thoughts on “Babka Is Back

  1. So I’m a true believer in Babka – one of my father’s favorites and something that was always in my house as a kid. Nothing like a good babka and nothing like a good sermon. Rabbi, your sermons, your blog are Babka! (and I’m not just saying that to be nice!)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Rabbi,
    As someone who has listened to your sermons for almost 31 years, may I say that they were never too long but always left us wanting more. You did not love your words too much, but made us love them too. Your love for Israel reminded us of ours. Like babka (one of the Jews great gifts to the world), your words are dense with just the right amount of flakiness and sweet with just the right amount to chew on. Todah rabah.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you for your wonderful reflection – it is indeed humbling (and fascinating) to read words from the past and to notice the themes that come around and around.
    Maybe I’m the only one who has never experienced Babka? Now I will have to search the bakeries in Connecticut.


  4. Glick’s in Delray has GREAT babka, no butter needed. But there is an apple babka that you may want to try. Light and heavy at the same time. The chocolate is a serious confection, a throwback to 40 years ago or 140 years ago. The good news is it’s a schlep, so that makes it special… 🙂


  5. Thank you, I truly enjoyed the article. Rabbi Shapiro does enjoy words and how they convey many meanings. His writings are fun to read. P.S. We have Leonards Bakery near us that specializes in GREAT BOBKA!


  6. Wondered when you would get around to looking through those cards. Good to hear that it wasn’t traumatic. A 19th century Episcopal Bishop of Massachusetts, Phillips Brooks, once defined preaching as “Truth through Personality”. It really is embarrassing how often we appear in our own sermons, but oddly, it seems to work as long as the Torah or whatever we call our scriptures, pass through us – an image i will remember.


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