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June 23, 2016 2:19 am

Unlocking the Power of Challah-Baking for Jewish Women

avatar by Alyssa Gross

Email a copy of "Unlocking the Power of Challah-Baking for Jewish Women" to a friend
Challah loaves. Photo: provided.

Challah loaves. Photo: provided.

There’s something that brings Jewish women together like no other: challah-baking.

Just ask Rebbetzin Rochie Pinson, who has hosted challah bakes for thousands of women at a time, spanning decades. From South Africa to Brazil to Canada and New York, women come from all over to mix and stir, knead and pound and pour their love and care into the entire process. Why?

What is it about baking challah that brings together women from all backgrounds to unite in this holy endeavor? Is it just about the delicious perfected triple-braided bread? Or the recipe for a scrumptious pumpkin challah?

In the book, The Rising Life, Rochie shows you the experience of baking challah as an expression of being a Jewish woman, wife, mother, and individual. She writes, “I began to feel the challah dough echoing the sounds (and, at times, cacophony) of my life. The act of making the challah…became meditative, meaningful, therapeutic and soul-refreshing.”

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Breaking bread together has long been the family staple. On Friday nights, women may light shabbat candles. The men come home from shul. And, everyone is greeted by the smell of freshly baked bread wafting through one’s home.

Yet, this mitzvah runs deeper. Much deeper. As I voraciously read through each page, I was invited to be both unique and imperfect. As women, we have tremendous pressures weighing on us to be perfect aesthetically, socially, and personally. But, just like baking challah is an imperfect science, even with the best of recipes, so too are our lives and our selves.

Freedom and liberation lay in the core ingredients of flour, sugar, yeast, salt, eggs, and water. Who knew?

There’s kindness, discipline, imperfection, and letting life get blissfully messy. We can allow ourselves to be perfectly imperfect just like the best of challahs — and still have our portion offered to G-d and our families.

Challah baking is spiritual yet mundane, an exact science but a fly by the seat of your skirts endeavor; it is individual yet collective. How lucky are we to have been blessed with this mitzvah. Each week, we are reminded of our soul, taken deeper into this world and freed to be as curious and suprising as each weekly batch of six pounds of challah dough.

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  • Wonderful article!
    WIZO NJ is exited to host Rebbetzin Rochie Pinson to lead 2.000 women at THE GREAT BIG CHALLAH BAKE of New Jersey on November 9!

  • Yaakov

    Who knew that white flour, sugar, salt, and eggs may not be good for us? Doing things just because they’ve always been done that way is a low level of behavior. Thinking is permitted.

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