Most people think of challah as that special, yummy, braided bread eaten only during Friday night and Shabbat meals, but it really represents so much more.
The Midrash (Bamidbar Rabbah 15) tells us that challah is one of the 3 things for which God created the world. The Torah refers to challah as reishit — “the first,” related to the first word of Genesis, B’reishit — “in the beginning.” Challah is called “the first” because it is so primary to the world’s purpose.
Maharal explores this idea further and points out how the world is symbolic to a human and that each human is like a mini-universe. Just as the world is made from land and water, so too the human is composed of 2 elements: earth, compared to flour, and spirit and intellect, compared to water. Just like humans are a combination of body and soul, so too dough is a combination of flour and water. Separating challah represents our commitment to consecrating our identity, the “dough.” As a result, God permits us to use this dough in the process of rectifying ourselves and the world.
There is never a bad time to ask God for help; however, when women take part in the 3 mitzvot (commandments/good deeds) specifically given to women, it is considered a particularly auspicious time to ask for things. The 3 mitzvot are: lighting Shabbat candles, managing family purity, and separating challah.
When my sister, Hagit, was first diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer, her friends from her community collected 40 women to bake challah in the merit for her complete recovery. The women collectively came together for a cause, to help someone in need. Baking challah doesn’t directly heal you, but baking challah for someone’s refuah shelema bonds us together and encourages us to do more mitzvot to our fellow man. This is what we should strive to do every single day.
I bake challah often and also enjoy doing it with my children. I find it’s a creative way to teach my kids about mitzvot and a chance to bond with them as well. I hope you get a chance to make challah for Shabbat, and pray for a friends’ refuah shelema. May all our prayers for healing the sick be answered!
I included below my really easy challah recipe, enjoy!
Healthy and easiest challah recipe:
1 3/4 cup water
2/3 cup oil
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups flour (Whole wheat)