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The Power of the Beginning

The Power of the Beginning


A universally recognized feature of life is the "beginning." The beginning of all existence is the opening theme of the entire Torah. The Torah also emphasizes a "beginning" of a different kind. It speaks of establishing a "beginning," during the process of baking loaves of bread.

After kneading the dough, but usually before plaiting it, a portion of the dough is separated. This action is called "taking Challah." It teaches us something about the beginning, not only of baking, but of everything in life.

In Temple times a significant quantity of Challah dough would be given to the priest; today, only a small amount is taken, and it is burned. The law of taking Challah is written in our Sedra: "The first of your kneading bowl you shall donate to G‑d as an offering; this applies in all your generations."

Chassidic teachings reveal a wider interpretation of this law, based on a subtle undertone in the wording. The Hebrew term for "kneading bowl" is arissa. But arissa has a double meaning: it means both a kneading bowl and also a bed, or a child's cradle.

Every moment spent teaching a young child about the beauty of the Torah and of Jewish life, is a precious link with the past and with future.

According to the Sages, this double meaning is not by chance. Like everything in the Torah, it is teaching us something. The law of taking Challah is that at the very beginning of the activity of baking bread, one does something to express recognition of G‑d. Taking Challah means the dedication of something to the Divine; and this step of dedication takes place right at the start.

The double meaning concealed in the Torah's words tells us not just about the kneading bowl, but about the cradle, the beginning of human life. From the very start there should be a step of dedication. How does one achieve the dedication of a child to Judaism? Through Jewish education. Every moment spent teaching a young child about his or her closeness to G‑d, about the beauty of the Torah and of Jewish life, is a precious link with the past and with future. These moments spent at the beginning of life help to ensure that the future years, the "generations" mentioned in the verse, will also be successful, leading towards genuine fulfillment. This is the global sense.

There is also a lesson concerning another kind of "beginning" - the start of every single day. Jewish teaching advises that here too we should begin with a moment of dedication: prayer, "Modeh Ani," the Shema, Tefillin. This is the Challah, given to G‑d. Then the rest of the day, the "generations," will be healthy, happy and wholesome, like the warmth of fresh-baked bread...

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Linda Korn Los Angeles, CA May 20, 2009

beginnings Not to mention that the importance of this mitzvah is so great, that the bread we bake is named after the mitzvah! CHALLAH
Yashir Koach Reply

Anonymous ardmore, PA April 12, 2007

I really like this whole thing I like it a whole lot you are a holy person! Reply

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