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Challah – Food for the Soul by Rabbi Chaim Brown “B-reishis,” “ In the beginning…”, which marks the start of creation, is interpreted by Chazal as a hint to the mitzvah of separating challah, which the Torah calls “reishis arisoseichem,” the first dough. The concept of “reishis” -- first -- used with respect to challah is not to be taken in the sense of chronological sequence, like the first one to finish a race, but in the sense of logical hierarchy, a first cause or first order of business necessary before other matters can be attended to. Before creation could proceed, there had to be a mitzvah of challah. One of the keys to appreciating the significance of hafrashas challah lies understanding the context in which the command first appears. After the return of the spies and their discouraging report, the Jewish people were told their punishment of having to undergo a 40 year sojourn in the desert. Immediately afterwards, the Torah commands the mitzvah of challah, which could only be performed in the land of Israel. On one level, this commandment intimates a consolation that, although deferred, the dream of entering the land of Israel remained the ultimate destiny of the Jewish people. However, there is also a lesson inherent in the mitzvah of challah itself that serves as a response to the spies. Maharal contrasts the mitzvah of bikkurim, which is also referred to in the Torah as reishis, with the mitvah of hafrashas challah. The mitzvah of bikkurim entails separating new fruit while the fruit is in its pristine state, untouched by man’s hand, and bringing that fruit to the kohein in the Bais haMikdash. Bikkurim is an acknowledgement of the kedusha inherent in the natural bounty given by Hashem. Although the Torah gives us no specific date for the episode of the spies, we are told that this story occurred in the days of bikkurei anavim, the blossoming of the first grapes. The concept of bikkurim relates to the way of life that the spies wished to preserve, that is the way of life experienced by the Jews in the desert where mann fell from the sky, water from a miraculous well of water, and protection from the Divine clouds that revealed Hashem’s presence. These wonders sustained life without the normal means of human effort, but they were to cease upon the Israelites’ entrance into their destined homeland. The Jewish people would be forced from Hashem’s overt protection into the heat of war, forced to deal with the necessity of taming and farming the land, and challenged to build a kingdom surrounded

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by enemies. The spies could appreciate the holiness of bikkurim, the pristine gifts of Hashem’s benevolence, but they could not comprehend how the barren wilderness of the land of Israel could be transformed as well into a makom kadosh, a holy place. They lacked the perspective of hafrashas challah, separating challah, which can take place only after wheat has been turned to flour, mixed with water and yeast to make dough, and kneaded by human hands. Sanctity is not found only in an idyllic cocoon of holiness separated from the world, but is to be found even within the challenges and daily efforts of life that the Torah itself demands we engage in for the betterment of the world and our surroundings. That is the sanctity epitomized by the mitzvah of hafrashas challah.

The mann that nourished the Jews was imbued with spiritual effect, as Chazal say, “lo nitna Torah elah l’ochlei haman” --the Torah was given only to those who ate mann. Nevertheless, the food produced in the land of Israel through the labor and toil of the farmer engendered a greater sense of appreciation for Hashem. The mann that nourished the Jews was imbued with spiritual effect, as Chazal say, “lo nitna Torah elah l’ochlei haman” --the Torah was given only to those who ate mann. Nevertheless, the food produced in the land of Israel through the labor and toil of the farmer engendered a greater sense of appreciation for Hashem. R’ Tzadok HaKohein (Tzidkas haTzadik #247 ) points out that the first bracha of birchas hamazon, [Grace after meals] which Moshe instituted in the desert, addresses Hashem in third-person, while the second bracha, which was instituted by Yehoshua after entering the land, addresses Hashem in second-person. Precisely because of its great spirituality, the mann created a sense of distance. Indeed, the halacha for saying the beracha on bread calls for holding it with all ten figures to remind us of the ten steps

Kallah Magazine

Summer 2010 / 5770

Profile for Ariella Brown

Kallah Magazine Summer 2010  

Wedding planning and more! The significance of the chuppah Vocabulary for the bridal bound - wedding gown terms. Delicious dairy recipes....

Kallah Magazine Summer 2010  

Wedding planning and more! The significance of the chuppah Vocabulary for the bridal bound - wedding gown terms. Delicious dairy recipes....

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