21 March 2018

Culture and spirituality of bread

One of the fundamental foods of both the Arab and the Jewish culture is bread: a tradition that combines historical elements and spirituality.

Christians in the Holy Land

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Whether it is time for breakfast, lunch or dinner, bread is always there. Bread is one of the fundamental foods of both the Arab and the Jewish culture. This is the largest oven in Bethlehem. It produces more than 120 kg of bread a day and each batch requires two bags of wheat flour, each weighing 60 kg.

RAED BABISH
Bakery-Owner
"This oven was created in 1998, 20 years ago. We started this profession using simple tools, which belong to my family, and we were able to use and develop the machines. Our production is high thanks to the use of the machines.”

We follow a specific production line and our special recipe to make this Arab bread so that it can get to the homes and to the families warm.

In the Jewish tradition, bread is intimately linked to the history of Israel, to the different feasts [celebrated through the year] and to the natural cycle of the agricultural production. During Pentecost, the harvest of wheat and barley used to be celebrated and offered to God as firstfruits, fifty days after Easter. Bread, therefore, has always been linked to the experience of thanksgiving in meals and in daily activities.

Br. ALESSANDRO CONIGLIO, ofm
Professor of Exegesis of the Old Testament - SBF
" is the exact translation, in Catholic terms, of the blessing that the head of the Jewish family pronounces before eating, at the beginning of the daily meal. Bread retains its value as a fundamental element of the everyday life. There is a meaning related to the blessing God gives to men through this element. Man lives on the continuous blessings he receives from God.”

In the Jewish tradition, bread also symbolized men's direct dependence on God. This brings us back to the dependence of the ancient agricultural society on the weather conditions that could jeopardize the harvest of wheat [and consequently, the making of] bread, a blessing coming from God. Also from the Gospels, we can deduce Jesus' special relationship with bread that it is present in the multiplication scene as a sign of trust in God and, later, in the Last Supper, during the institution of the Eucharist.

Br. ALESSANDRO CONIGLIO, ofm
Professor of Exegesis of the Old Testament - SBF
“Bread is now His real presence among us. And He is not among us by means of a particularly precious element from the daily table of a Jew of His time, but he does so starting from a very simple, poor and natural element, because He reveals Himself to everyone and not only to the rich and the privileged.”

Even Jesus' birthplace, Bethlehem, in Hebrew the "House of Bread", reflects His mission: the incarnate Word who becomes food. Jesus used an almost insipid and colorless element that was part of the daily life of His people, to reveal his simple presence, which, in the Eucharist, is absolutely concrete and real. At the Last Supper, Christ celebrated the Passover, the deliverance of the people from Egypt, but above all, He established the new Passover, a new liberation, no longer from ancient slavery, but from sin and death.