I love words, but they are at times such an obstacle to communication.

One word can mean so many different things to so many different people. Here’s a prime example:

The word challah has a variety of meanings. Google’s translation tool defines it simply as a “loaf”—a rather pedestrian word. But ask for a challah at a kosher bakery, and you will get braided bread. But be sure to make this request in the days before Shabbat or a Jewish holiday—asking for a challah on Wednesday is akin to requesting latkes for Purim. Then there is the challah in halachic parlance, a reference to the portion of every batch of dough that one gifts to a kohen (priest)—this meaning of the word is based on the biblical wording in Numbers 15:20.

(In our current state of dispersion and exile, Is the rest of the time, money, and resources “mine, all mine!” to do with as I please?and the spiritual impurity that this has wrought, common practice is for the kohen not to eat this consecrated food; instead, we burn this blessed clump of dough.)

Okay, so what underlying thread binds together all these definitions—and, of course, what is the lesson here?

Here’s a thought: From all that we own, we are required to share. We are expected to contribute to charity with our wealth; to allocate time for prayer, study and communal work; and in general, to generously give from the bounty that G‑d has bestowed upon us.

But what of the remainder? After the tithing, after the 30 hours volunteered at the community center, after Shabbat (the 15% of my week dedicated to G‑d), now what? Is the rest of the time, money, and resources “mine, all mine!” to do with as I please?

Here is a challah lesson. When we designate some, or even a lot, of any asset for a holy purpose, we acknowledge and honor the sanctity of that part. That part is made special. Now the leftover may be seen mistakenly as mundane. Imagine, however, having the same reverence for the dough we keep as for the mass we give to the kohen; how different would our dinner tables look then?

When we do good, lots of good, we may be lured into a sense of entitlement. I gave 20% to charity; I can now buy whatever I want with the rest, without regard for social responsibility. I volunteered at the school for two hours; I am now entitled to laze around for the rest of the week. I called Aunt Miriam; Uncle David can now find his own way to the grocery store. I gave at the office, so leave me alone.

The challah we eat can be as holy as the challah we donate. The six days of the week are as opportune as Shabbat. The money in my pocket must be treated with as much awe as the bills in the charity box. It is all G‑d’s, and we are entrusted with it: part to give away and part to utilize appropriately.

We expect charitable organizations to handle the monies entrusted to them with reverence and responsibility. No less is demanded from us and from what G‑d has entrusted to us.