Have you signed the census, yet?
Shalom, welcome weary traveler. Have you journeyed far?
Do not forget to pay your taxes.
I have seen the Roman soldiers carrying off those who refused to pay their taxes.
Beware of the Roman soldiers they are in a foul mood this night.
Keep your valuables and children close to you. There are rumors that the Romans sell small children to the Phoenicians as slaves.
I do not know the answer to that question. Perhaps the rabbi would know. He is in the synagogue and is a wise and learned man. Or maybe the scribe, he can read and write in four languages.
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Fine bread, fresh bread, you will find no finer bread in all of Bethlehem tonight.
Did you know that Bethlehem means house of bread? We are known all around for our wonderful bread. King David often sent for our bread for sacrifices in the temple.
We grind our flour fresh each day. My children help gather the grain from the fields just outside the city walls.
Baking Bread in Biblical Times:
Bread was the main source of nourishment in biblical times and making bread was a daily activity:
An upper hand stone was used to grind grain on the lower quern stone.
Bread making began with the milling of the grain. It was a difficult and time-consuming task, performed by women. Each household stored its own grain, and it is estimated that it required at least three hours of daily effort to produce enough flour to make sufficient bread for a family of five. The earliest milling was performed with a pestle and mortar, or a stone quern consisting of a large lower stone that held the grain and a smooth upper stone that was moved back and forth over the grains (Numbers 11:8). This often left small pieces of grit in the flour. The use of the millstone became more widespread during the Iron Age, resulting in greater speed and increased production of flour. Smaller versions for household use, the rotary or beehive quern, appeared during the early Persian period.
After the grain was milled into flour, it was mixed with water and kneaded in a large trough. For dough made with wheat flour, starter, called seor, was added. The starter was prepared by reserving a small portion of dough from a previous batch to absorb the yeasts in the air and thus help leaven the new dough. Seor thus gave the bread a sourdough flavor.
Once prepared, the dough could be baked in various ways:
Initially, the dough was placed directly on the heated stones of a cooking fire or in a griddle or pan made of clay or iron (Leviticus 7:9). In the time of the First Temple, two types of oven were used for baking bread: the jar oven and the pit-oven. The jar-oven was a large pottery container, narrowing into an opening toward the top; fuel was burned on the inside to heat it and the dough was pressed against the outside to bake. The pit-oven was a clay-lined excavation in the ground in which the fuel was burned and then pushed aside, and the loaves were baked on the heated surface. People also began placing a convex dome, initially earthenware and later metal, over the pit-oven and cooking the flatbreads on the dome instead of on the ash-covered surface; this type of oven is probably what was meant by the biblical machabat, often translated as “griddle”.
The Persians introduced a clay oven called a tanur (similar to the Indian tandoor), which had an opening at the bottom for the fire, and through which the bread was placed to be baked on the inner wall of the upper chamber from the heat of the oven and ashes after the flames had died down. This continued to be the way in which Yemenite Jews baked bread until modern times. The remains of clay ovens, and fragments of bread trays have been found in several archaeological excavations.
All these methods produced only quite thin loaves and the custom was thus to break bread rather than cut it. The bread was soft and pliable and used for dipping and sopping up gravies and juices.
The Romans introduced an oven called a "furn" ("purni" in Talmudic Aramaic), a large, wood-burning, stone-lined oven with a bottom on which the dough or baking sheet was placed. This provided a major advance in bread and pastry baking, and made the baking of much thicker loaves possible.
A variety of breads was produced. Probably most common were unleavened flat loaves called ugah or kikkar. Another type was a thin wafer, known as a rakik. A thicker loaf, known as hallah was made with the best quality flour, usually for ritual purposes.
Bread was sometimes enriched by the addition of flour from legumes (Ezekiel 4:9). The Mishna (Hallah 2:2) mentions bread dough made with fruit juice instead of water. The sugar in the juice, interacting with the flour and water, provided some leavening and sweetened the bread. The Israelites also sometimes added fennel and cumin to bread dough for flavor, and dipped their bread in vinegar, (Ruth 2:14) olive or sesame oil for extra flavor.