Baking Challah for Shabbat reminds me of the final moments of a yoga class. You have already put in the work of the class and you are laying curled up on your right side feeling the gratitude of your practice and setting your intention for your day. Baking Challah is the gratitude and reflection session of your busy week.
On Friday, we set aside time to reflect and pray upon our week and set our intention for Shabbat and the week to come. While kneading the dough, I often find myself entering a zone of meditation reflecting on the meaning of my actions and my desires for the future.
“Challah” simply means bread and refers to the Jewish bread baked for Shabbat. While baking the bread there is a positive mitzvah performed in which a small amount of the dough is separated before braiding and a blessing is recited:
Blessed are You, L‑rd our G‑d, King of the universe, who has sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us to separate challah
After the blessing is said, separate a small amount of the dough and recite “This is Challah”. The Challah piece is wrapped in tinfoil and burned in an empty oven as a small offering to HaShem. In this moment I close my eyes and I pray for my family. I express my gratitude for the multiple blessings we have received and commit myself to continue to grow and do good deeds in the next week.
Challah baking is not only a tasty treat for the family every week, but can also become a deeply spiritual experience. This act as Jewish women of baking Challah connects us directly HaShem as well as our ancestors. It is an amazing thought that your grandma, your grandma’s grandma and your grandma’s grandma’s grandma most likely were performing the same mitzvah in the same way. To love is to give and this Challah is an amazing gift for family and friends.