The Great Challah Bake - An Opportunity for Jewish Unity
By Micki Lavin-Pell
Baking Challah is one of the mitzvot (commandment) that is a beautiful synthesis of spirituality and physicality. The mitzvah originates from the book of Sh’mot (Exodus) where God gives the Israelites manna (the substance miraculously supplied as food to the Israelites in the wilderness) from heaven on a daily basis. This mana provided both spiritual as well as physical nourishment and sustained our people as they passed through the desert.
One might ask how food can be such a huge source of spirituality. The way we can understand this is that it was though believing that G-d would provide. This belief fueled the connection and enabled the mana to arrive on a regular time table. It wasn’t just that it was something that was expected, but rather the connection created from our people to G-d is what enabled them to be physically nourished.
Nowadays, we commemorate the double portion of the manna by having two challot on our Shabbat table each week. The strands of the challah represent the different kinds of Jewish people that exist all around the world. The braiding of the challah represents the fact that we are united as one people. Even though we have different ways of observing our Judaism, we can all celebrate the traditions in our own unique ways.
I began to bake challah regularly in June 2014 when Gil-Ad Shaar, Naftali Fraenkel and Eyal Yifrach were kidnapped. It was a time when Jews all over Israel and around the world joined together in a unified mission to locate the boys and bring them home. The intensity that existed in Israel at the time was enormous. Throughout Israel we all felt how connected we were through this common cause and mission. Where ever we were during the 18 days that the boys were missing, every thought was focused on finding these boys, and this tragedy brought Am Yisrael together so deeply.
We all felt so vulnerable as there was so little any of us could really do other than pray. Baking Challah was the one physical thing that so many of us did that made us feel we were doing something meaningful, that could potentially help on a greater scale.
In October 2015, as the situation in Israel once again came under threat, starting with the brutal murder of Rabbi Eitam (z”l) and Naama Henkin (z”l), sadly we have become together once again through tragedy. We are all fearful for our own lives and for the lives of Jews all over Israel with the terrible daily news of yet another terrorist attack. Many of us are once again at a loss of how to make sense of what is happening and feel powerless to create change, as much is left to our political leaders. So once again, we turn to challah baking.
Each year, Israel takes part in the Shabbat Project, joining 465 countries and over 1,000 communities around the world to celebrate Shabbat. While Shabbat begins at nightfall on Friday night and ends the following evening, on Thursday night we will begin to prepare for Shabbat on a mass scale in Jerusalem at the Tachana Rishona (First Station) for a mass Challah Bake. Jewish men and women from all ethnicities, traditions, levels of observance and backgrounds are invited to attend this event.
It is an opportunity for real Jewish Unity of the greatest kind.
The theme of spirituality and physicality will be carried out throughout the event as the actual Challah Bake will be led by Efrat Peterseil, a Home Styler with an expertise in decorating and preparing your home for Shabbat. While Rabbanit Racheli Fraenkel, outstanding speaker and lecturer on Jewish thought and Torah and mother of one of the kidnapped murdered boys Naftali Fraenkel, will speak about unity.
It is fortuitous that the Shabbat Project is happening this week as we need to unite and feel a sense of connection to one another now more than ever given the current situation.
For those of you around the world that would like to participate in the tradition of baking your own challah, click HERE to view a few recipes and how-to videos featured in The Huffington Post.
To join the Shabbat Project, click HERE.
Micki Lavin-Pell is a certified marriage and family therapist and relationship coach in Jerusalem. Since 2002, she has worked with hundreds of individuals and couples and have helped them to create the relationship which fulfills their needs and enables them to thrive.