This past Thursday night (Nov. 10, 2016) was one of the highlights of my entire challah demonstration career.
I was zocheh to give a challah event – far more than just a demo – in front of around 1,000 women from every walk of life here in Yerushalayim, Ir HaKodesh as part of the worldwide Shabbos Project.
A Word of Thanks
Before beginning my story, I would like to publicly thank Rabbi and Mrs. Yehoshua Wechsler of the Emek Learning Center (ELC) who stood behind this event, took upon themselves all the millions of details: people to help put it together, finding donors, and much, much more. The Wechslers put in more than 1000% to make it all come out as great as it did!
● Bar Mitzvahs
Emek Learning Center (ELC) staff, such as the Smiths, the Berzons, the Meyers, and countless others took responsibility for logistics, and preparing the venue layout and the ingredients – which is it’s own “parsha” all by itself.
Surprise! It’s a Kallah
First on our agenda of the evening was the talk being given by Rabbanit Yemima Mizrachi, scheduled to begin at 7:10 pm. Sometime around 6 or so, as I was standing at the entrance to the hall taking a drink and a bit of a break, an older Israeli woman walks over to me and asks (in Hebrew), “Are you the one doing the hafrashat challah tonight?”
“Yes,” I answered, wondering how she knew that.
“My daughter is a kallah, and she’s getting married in the hall adjacent to this one. Could we ask for Rabbanit Mizrachi to give her a bracha when she gets here?”
“Certainly!” I assured the mother, while mentally doing gymnastics on how we’d get this done, as our schedule for the night was beyond packed. “Come back at 7 pm exactly because the Rabbanit only has 20 minutes with us.”
Escorting the Queen with Song
Shortly before 7:00 I made sure to get to the front of the room so as to be able to catch the Rabbanit before she got up on stage. In just two seconds I briefed her on what was about to happen.
When the kallah walked into the room, as one, the whole room of around 1,000 women rose and stood up to greet her. The kallah was glowing, she was so moved. Then she got to the front where Rabbanit Mizrachi waited her.
The Rabbanit gave her a hug in front of everyone and a beautiful bracha.
Rabbanit Mizrachi also told her that on the day of her wedding she is a malka and she should now bless us all of us – which she did –
And then the room burst into song!
Women and girls went into high gear, jumping to the front of the room where the kallah stood, linking arms and dancing wedding style right there. Then we escorted the kallah down from the stage, danced with her, and continued on all the way back to her hall.
Well! Now THAT was certainly a highly different beginning to our challah event than any of US could have planned – I can guarantee that no other challah bake in the world probably had a Kallah on her wedding day at their event!
Getting Our Hands in the Dough
All that dancing and the unexpected gift of a kallah to grace our evening set the tone for the rest of the night.
We launched right into the holiness of challah.
After a brief intro about challah I explained how we would make our dough with so many participants; exactly how to measure with what we had provided in the bowls in front of each person and in what order.
We put on our aprons and gloves and got started.
Girls Aged 5, Women Aged 90, and Every Age in Between – Performing Hafrashas Challah
At this point I explained what we were about to do for the main part of the whole evening – our mitzvah of hafrashas challah.
I reviewed some of the halachos that are necessary to know before beginning, how actually to perform the mitzvah – because for many in the room, this was really their first time doing the mitzvah!
In fact, we had our oldest participant, a woman of over 90 k’ah, tell me afterwards that this was her first time doing this mitzvah too!
We had participants from aged five…
all the way to age 90+ and everything in between.
The 1,000 Woman Amen
Then I stopped for a minute and told everyone, “Before we begin, I’m going to go first. Out of this whole room filled with SO many beautiful, holy neshamot, what do I want from all of you? I want your Amen’s. I ask that when I say my bracha aloud, that every one of you please answer Amen to me – ladies, that means we’ll have approximately one thousand Amen’s from all of this!
And when it is your turn, try to do it in pairs; one makes her bracha, the other should answer Amen, and then the reverse – and then PRAY.
That is why we are all here tonight, to gather to use this tremendous “eit ratzone” to pray together. It’s so powerful – look at all the hundreds of zechusim we are meriting to have together – Thursday night which is considered Friday, ie Erev Shabbos + over 900 women together + the achdus of just being together + hafrashas challah itself + the best part of it, being in Yerushalayim Ir HaKodesh, just a mere few meters from the makom hamikdash itself – no other challah bake around the world outside Jerusalem can claim that – it’s just incredible!”
I closed my eyes and began…and as I finished my bracha, I heard the whole room thunder in answer, so many Amens, from so many kinds of women.
Besides that, I realized I had also heard Amens from behind me. All the Israeli sound, video and mic guys standing behind me had answered Amen too…
There’s nothing like the Jewish neshama.
The room grew hushed as so many hundreds started doing their own hafrashot simultaneously, with the many, many tefillos… and while the Shaw sisters softly played “Vezakeini” from their instruments, we covered our eyes and prayed and prayed.
We Want Kohanim!
Volunteers went throughout the room gathering together our separated pieces of dough. Those pieces that we still aren’t able to give to a Kohen in the Bais Hamikdash as we still don’t have our Mikdash.
As the Rabbanit told us – it shows Hashem that we miss Him, that we still remember His House and that we want Him back again! We can’t even use this piece of dough but we still separate it and still keep it holy because we want to show that we want Him back as well.
Bursting into Song
Before I knew it, the whole room exploded in song and dance; everyone grabbed someone, and we danced our excitement, our unity, our show of Hashem’s mitzvohs to us TOGETHER!
It was one of the highlights of the night – we kept singing, we kept dancing…
Song after song, hands over each other’s shoulders…
Hands grabbing hands, girls, women united arms linked to each other, singing at the top of their voices… “Yachad, kol yisroel Yachad!”
Once we all calmed back down again, the shaping began.
And then, good Shabbos everyone – time to take your beautiful challahs home with you and bake them, “L’kavod Shabbos Kodesh!”
I’m Still on the “High”
I came home, and everyone who was with me felt the same way – it was so hard to leave, to let it go, to break up and go back to being just me…but the feelings stayed on.
Coming home in a ‘high’ and yet…I’m still ‘up there’ – it was SUCH a beautiful evening.
Dancing at the Geulah
Can you imagine how much more powerful it will be when the Geula will really be here, here in Yerushalayim Ir HaKodesh and we will all get to dance together then?
We were of the only ones who got to perform this mitzvah b’rov am right here in Yerushalayim, just a few meters away from the site of the actual Bais Hamikdash! The thought is mind boggling!
Good Shabbos everyone!
If you have an inspiring Challah story to share with me, please do – I read every single one!
See you next year!