|The magic and mystery inherent in the creation of bread are a symbol of the creation and cycle of human life - hence the central role that bread plays in rites of passage. In ancient cultures, a parallel was drawn between the human life cycle and the process of fertilization, growth, ripening, and withering in nature. A similar development also characterizes the production of bread, from its kneading, leavening, and baking in an oven to its disappearance when we eat it. Yet one piece of dough can serve to foment the next cycle of bread making . . .
It is therefore no wonder that leavened or fermented dough is widely used in customs related to marriage, pregnancy, and fertility. Bread may also serve as an amulet or lucky charm; as an expression of the individual's attachment to his or her family or community; as a means of providing comfort and healing; and even as a mediator between our own world and the afterworld.
Aram Gershuni, Bread and Water, 2005
Oil on canvas, 45 x 45 cm
Private collection, Tel Aviv
|Judaism assigns a key role to bread in ceremonial meals celebrating the main rites of passage in the cycle of life. In Christianity it is a central feature of the particular Mass reserved for each life-cycle event. Both Judaism and Christianity also grant bread a symbolic role in the festivities accompanying these rituals. By contrast, in Islam bread does not play a significant ritual role. However, aside from constituting a basic element of traditional cooking and folk medicine, it has acquired a sacred status in daily life and is commonly referred to as "God's blessing."