The aroma and taste of homemade challah is unparalleled! Challah is the traditional braided bread that we eat on Shabbat and it’s unlike any other bread!
For example, say you have dinner at a friend’s house and you really enjoyed one of the dishes they served, so you ask for the recipe. You go home and try to make the recipe yourself but it doesn’t turn out the same. Likewise, no two challahs are the same! Even from week to week my challah tastes a little different!
Chassidus has a very interesting insight it to why this is. There are seven traditional ingredients in most challah recipes: water, yeast, egg, oil, sugar, salt, and flour. But there is also a special eighth ingredient… our souls. When we are making challah we are putting our souls and energy into it and it adds a dimension of spiritual nourishment. Who knew making bread could be a spiritual process?!?
The mitzvah of challah provides a weekly opportunity for reflection and a time of prayer for ones family.
When making challah you add the ingredients in the order they are listed. Following this simple rule is a great reminder of how orderly Hashem is and how he orchestrates our lives.
The first ingredient is water. Water is our lifeline – we can’t live without! Water is essential. Water represents Torah, which is our spiritual lifeline and essential to our well-being! Torah flows down to us from Hashem, just as water flows out of a faucet!
When we add water to our bowl we can think…
“Where in my life do I need more Torah?
Yeast represents growth and expansion. When we add the yeast to our water it’s a perfect time to pray for the spiritual and emotional growth of each member of our family.
Yeast causes the bread to rise. We can pray also that Hashem would assist us in rising to meet our full potential!
The egg represents the renewal of the lifecycle. It is also representative of a great potential “about to hatch” or waiting to be revealed. When adding the egg to our recipe, it’s a great time to pray for physical and spiritual renewal for our family. Also, to pray for those “great potentials about to hatch” in our lives… whatever they may be.
Oil represents Hashem’s anointing. The Jewish kings were anointed with oil. Many women have the tradition of saying each of their children’s names as they add the oil to the mixture.
We can pray for the anointing to do what Hashem has called us to do, that our families will walk in and under the anointing of the Ruach and feel the pleasure that the anointing brings and that Hashem would make us sacred and set apart.
Sugar represents blessings!
When adding the sugar, pray for your family to have a sweet life, a constant remembrance of the sweetness of Hashem, and that sweet words will flow from our mouths to those around us.
Sugar also represents emunah (faith). When we have the proper faith – everything becomes sweeter, even things that seem difficult – because we realize that everything is from Hashem and for our good!
We can pray that our emunah would be strengthened.
Salt is the next ingredient and it represents discipline and criticism. We need salt in a much smaller measure. There is a tradition to shake a little salt off the top of your measuring spoon as a reminder that we should give others less of a rebuke than what we sometimes feel is necessary.
Salt also represents purification. In the kashering process, salt is rubbed onto the meat to extract the blood and toxins. When we add the salt we can pray that Hashem would remove anything toxic in our lives… in our mind, soul, or bodies.
Flour is the foundation of the bread.
When you add the flour pray for your family’s foundation to be firmly established in truth.
Flour also represents sustenance. We can pray for blessings on our financial provision, also over relationships that sustain us.
The next step is kneading the dough.
When we knead the dough we are creating unity. It’s a great time to reflect on the oneness of G-d and pray for unity within our homes and communities.
Now to let it rise!
How many of us like waiting? We can pray that our families will have endurance to wait on Hashem until it is time for His work to be accomplished.
I hope this post inspires and encourages you all in this beautiful and meaningful mitzvah.
(I’d like to note that these thoughts are not original but a compilation of various teachings I’ve either read or heard.)