[yshavurah] Interesting Commentary on Mitzvot

  • From: "Cheryl Levine" <clevineys@xxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: "Havurah Listserv" <yshavurah@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Mon, 30 Aug 2004 20:21:15 -0400

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Hi All,
I was looking on a site called aish.com and found the following ideas in =
an article entitled, "Dr. Laura, God Loves..."
The article as a whole was so so but I found this excerpt on the mitzvah =
of taking challah really interesting.
Shavua Tov,


I have been religiously observant for 18 years. Three months ago, a =
woman started giving a course in our neighborhood on the mitzvah of =
taking hallah. In the Torah, God commands that once we enter the Land of =
Israel, when we bake bread, we should separate off a small piece of the =
dough and put it aside. This is one of the three mitzvot that are =
considered specifically given to women.

Not being the earthy type, I have never felt inclined to bake bread from =
scratch. With my bread maker, yes. With my husband (a pianist who loves =
to exercise his fingers by kneading) making the dough, and me just =
saying the blessing and breaking off a piece of dough, yes. But to take =
a ten-week course in the single mitzvah of separating hallah, no thanks. =

When a friend asked me why I wasn't taking the hallah course, I replied =
glibly that I'm all air signs, and I'm not the earthy, bread-baking =

My friend looked at me aghast. "Don't you know that all the blessings of =
physical abundance come down into the world through the performance of =
the mitzvah of taking hallah? The mitzvah also effects healing in 14 =
different ways."

I enrolled in the course, wondering how there could be so much to say =
about a single mitzvah.=20

"The mitzvah of hallah is cosmic in its effect," the teacher proclaimed. =
Every week my jaw dropped lower as she expatiated on the mystic =
ramifications of this one mitzvah.=20

Then she announced that the following week a rabbi would be coming in to =
teach us about the mitzvah's specific requirements in Jewish law. This =
would take two hours.

Two hours? I couldn't imagine how he could fill up two hours. And, of =
course, I already knew how to do the mitzvah.

I went to the class anyway. I discovered that I had been doing the =
mitzvah wrong.=20

The following week, our teacher announced, she would be demonstrating =
how to make hallah. I came prepared for a Pillsbury lesson that I didn't =
need because my husband has the world's best recipe for whole wheat =

The demonstration was a life-changing event.

      Now I make hallah once a month, and it's the spiritual highpoint =
of my month. =20
Now I make hallah once a month, and it's the spiritual highpoint of my =
month. I start by turning off the phone and announcing that no one is =
permitted into the kitchen until I've finished; this mitzvah requires =
total concentration.=20

Then I give charity, so that all my prayers will be favorably accepted. =
Then I say a chapter of Psalms, to open up the gates of heaven.=20

While sifting the flour, I sing, because joy is the foundation of all =
spiritual success. Then I add each ingredient consciously: sugar for the =
sweetness I hope to see in my family's life; yeast so that each member =
of my family will grow and expand; water represents Torah; when =
measuring salt, which represents rebuke, I fill two tablespoons, then =
shake some back into the salt container because we should always give =
less rebuke than we think we should; and as I slowly pour in the oil, I =
"anoint" each member of my family by name, praying for his or her =
specific needs.

Kneading is the time to pray. My teenage daughter and I take turns, each =
of us thinking of people to pray for by name: single friends that they =
should get married; childless friends that they should have babies; sick =
people and terror victims that they should have a speedy and complete =
recovery; people struggling financially that they should have =
livelihood. My daughter reminds me to add the names of Israel's missing =
soldiers and of Jonathan Pollard. On and on we knead and pray, with such =
spiritual focus and intensity, that the kitchen becomes charged.

Now the dough is ready to take the hallah, but the spiritual =
preparations to perform the mitzvah properly continue. Reading from a =
laminated sheet prepared and distributed by two Israeli sisters, I pray =
fervently that my performance of the mitzvah of hallah will repair the =
primeval sin of Eve. That just as she brought death into the world, I =
will bring life into the world, nullifying death, erasing the tears from =
every face.

Now I am ready to perform the mitzvah. I break off a small piece of =
dough, recite the blessing over the mitzvah, and with both hands lift =
the piece of dough above my head and proclaim: "Behold, this is hallah!"

My hands are quivering with the spiritual intensity of the moment. With =
my hands still raised, I utter two more prayers -- one that my taking =
hallah should be considered as if I had brought an offering in the Holy =
Temple, that it should atone for all my sins and be as if I am born =
anew, and the other for the complete and final redemption of the whole =

It has taken me over an hour to perform this one mitzvah. I feel =
exalted, tremulous, ecstatic as I used to feel after hours of =

      The lack was not in the mitzvah. The lack was not in Judaism. The =
lack was in me.  =20
For 17 years, I sporadically (and incorrectly) performed the mitzvah of =
hallah, while having no idea of the profundity and spiritual potential =
of the mitzvah. I slid into second base, recited the blessing, broke off =
a piece of dough -- and felt nothing. It did not connect me to God, =
except on the most rudimentary level.=20

The lack was not in the mitzvah. The lack was not in Judaism. The lack =
was in me.=20

The mitzvot are an unparalleled spiritual feast. Most Jews have barely =
tasted their sumptuousness. Connoisseurs know the difference between =
eating and dining. The latter takes time -- and concentration on the =
taste of every bite. A connoisseur dining in a five-star restaurant will =
not complain at how long the food takes to prepare. Nor will he assess =
the quality of the restaurant by how full he feels when he leaves.=20

Judaism is not a fast-food religion. Connecting to God through the =
mitzvot takes time, constant learning and a commitment to moving ever =

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