Stories We Tell: Grandma's Challah

Judaism has a deep and rich tradition of storytelling, of passing down stories from one generation to the next. To carry on that tradition, Stories We Tell, from, will share a new story with you every Thursday. Whether you listen while driving to work, preparing Shabbat dinner, or taking your kids to school, each episode will give you a new story to reflect on and discuss with the people in your life. Stories We Tell is a project of the Union for Reform Judaism, a leading voice in the discussion of modern Jewish life.

Food is such an important part of Jewish history and culture, and for many of us, there’s nothing quite like the food our grandparents made for us as children. This week, author and puppeteer Marilyn Price tells the story of a king who wants nothing more than to taste the challah his grandmother used to make for him, and how something as simple as love can turn great food into something even better. To learn more about Marilyn, her puppetry, and her storytelling, you can visit her website at

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[URJ Intro] Welcome back to Stories We Tell, a podcast presented by Judaism has always had a deep and rich tradition of passing our stories down from one generation to the next. And that's what we do here each week, sharing a new story for you. This week, you're in for a real treat. Marilyn Price, puppeteer, storyteller, author, and educator will share the story of "Grandma's Challah."

[Marilyn Price] The word "love," [HEBREW] in Hebrew, is a beautiful word. It always brings to mind the interaction between people, between one, two, between things that make you smile with excitement and shiver with delight. It's often the centerpiece of many a story. So keeping that in mind, I would like to tell you a story.

Once upon a time, there was a little boy. He lived with his mom and his dad, his grandma, his grandpa. He lived with brothers and sisters and cousins. He lived with everyone who took care of them in a place called the palace, for his daddy was the king. And he was the oldest. He would be king one day himself.

He was trained to be king in many, many ways. But his favorite training was in the kitchen with grandma. The training took place on Fridays. It was called challah baking. But it wasn't just about baking. It was about the stories they would listen to from each other. He told her stories about his day, and she told him stories about his daddy when he was the king. He loved those stories.

One of the things he wanted to know was how he would be as good a king as he knew his dad was. And so she told him through a story. She told him to remember to take care of his people, to love them, to love himself and his family. And she taught him that the best thing he could do would be to teach them how to love themselves by taking care of themselves.

And all this happened while they were making challah. They would add. They would stir. They would knead. They would braid. They would put it in the oven. They would set the timer. And when the timer went off, they would have challah.

He loved it. He didn't know if he could ever separate the act of making the challah with the smell of the challah or the taste of it. All he knew was that grandma's challah was the one he wanted to have for the rest of his life.

Time went by. And pretty soon-- well, not so soon because his daddy lived to be 120-- he became the king. By that time, grandma was gone. He did, however, have her recipe.

So at the very first time that he could, he showed up at the palace kitchen. And he called out for the royal chef. Royal chef, royal chef. And who should become right there but the royal chef. He said, your majesty, what can I do for you?

He said, I would like a challah like my grandma made. [LAUGHS] Of course. I would be glad to do that for you, your majesty. I don't have that recipe, though. Oh, I do, said the king. And he got it. And he handed it to the chef. It was yellowed with age and spattered with ingredients, but it was that same recipe that grandma had used.

And so the chef tried. The king had asked him to be sure not to leave anything out. And he tried, really, he did. He stirred. He added. He kneaded. He braided. He put it in the oven. He set the timer. When the timer went off, he took out a challah that was just perfect looking. And he handed it to the King.

The King, of course, asked, did you leave anything out? And the chef said, no. I did it exactly as the recipe taught me. So the king was excited. After all, now he could have some of grandma's challah.

So he ripped off a piece, and they said the blessing together. And the king chewed slowly to savor the taste, but the taste wasn't there. This was not the challah like my grandma made. You left something out.

Oh, no, your majesty. I did. Oh, I'm sorry, but you must have. So the king went on to another chef and then another and another and another until finally he was out of chefs. And then he went to the people, asking them to please help him.

Oh, they tried, really, they did. You had to give them credit. But none of them, none of them were able to make that challah taste like his grandma had. And the king became very sad. And a sad king is not a pretty picture.

So one day, while he was just feeling so sorry for himself, along came a little girl who looked at him and said, your majesty, what is it? He said, why, it's the challah, little girl. Challah? Challah is supposed to make you smile with excitement and shiver with delight like my grandma's challah. Your grandma makes a challah? Oh, yes, she makes the best challah. Well, may I meet her? Well, sure. I'm on my way there now.

So little girl took her king by the hand. And they went through the dark but not scary words. And she told him stories, too. Everyone loves stories.

When they got to grandma's house, she immediately raced inside to tell grandma who was at the door. Grandma was a little surprised. Kings didn't come by her neighborhood very much. But she raced out to see him. And she said, oh, your majesty, I wasn't expecting you. What can I do for you?

Well, your granddaughter tells me that you make the best challah. Oh, I think she's just a little partial. Well, that may be, but I was partial to my grandma's challah, too. Oh, how nice. But what can I do for you?

Well, I was hoping, wondering if you could make my grandma's recipe for me. Oh, no, I couldn't do that. But why not? I'm the king, you know. Oh, I know. But you see, I'm the grandma. And I never use anybody's recipes but mine.

Oh, I miss my grandma. She used to tell me such wise stories. She told me about my dad when he was the king. Oh. Well, I could tell you some of those. He was my king, too, you know. You could? Oh, sure. Come on in. Maybe if you helped me, we could make that challah together. Oh, sure. That that would be-- I could do that.

So they went inside-- the king, grandma, and the little girl. And together, they made that challah. They added. They stirred. They kneaded. They braided. They told each other stories.

And he asked this question. He said, excuse me. But you knew my dad, and he was a good King. Why? Why? Well, that's because he loved his people, and he listened to them, and he taught them to love themselves, to take care of themselves. That's what it takes, you know.

Oh, you know, I do believe that my grandma told me the very same thing. Well, thank you so much. But wait, she said. We haven't tried the challah. I think it's ready. When she took it out of the oven and ripped off a piece, she handed it to the king. He said, but I've been watching very carefully, and you didn't do, nor did I, anything different. Why should it taste different than all the rest?

She said, why don't you try it, your majesty? Maybe you'll learn something. Well, the King was, of course, happy to learn something new. So he said, well, OK. And I want to thank you for going out of your way. So he ripped off a piece of the challah and handed some to her and to the little girl, her granddaughter. And together, they said the blessing.

And then the king chewed and swallowed. And a smile came across his face. He said, that's it. That's it. That's the challah like my grandma made. How did you do it? What did you do that everyone forgot? Oh, she said, that's easy. When I made challah for you, your majesty, I made it with love like I make it for my granddaughter, for that's the secret ingredient.

[URJ Outro] After hearing the story "Grandma's Challah," is there anything that you include in everything that you do? And do you think that others would know that's your one special thing? We'd love to hear about it if you want to share that with us on social media.

And thanks for listening to Stories We Tell. If you enjoyed this week's story, please subscribe and rate and review us on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts. You can always buy new episodes every Thursday on And don't forget to visit to learn a little bit more about Jewish rituals or culture or holidays and more. Stories We Tell is a project of the Union for Reform Judaism, a leading voice in the discussion of modern Jewish life. Until next week, l'hitroat.