Blessing in the Dough – Chayei Sarah
In this week’s parsha we read about the marriage of Yitzchak and Rivka –
וַיְבִאֶהָ יִצְחָק הָאֹהֱלָה שָׂרָה אִמּוֹ וַיִּקַּח אֶת רִבְקָה וַתְּהִי לוֹ לְאִשָּׁה וַיֶּאֱהָבֶהָ וַיִּנָּחֵם יִצְחָק אַחֲרֵי אִמּוֹ (בראשית כד, סז).
We know from last week’s parsha Vayeira that Sarah was a bread baker. When the three angels visited Avraham (one of whom was dressed as a baker), Avraham went inside the tent and told Sarah to make bread for the guests. Avraham himself went about preparing the rest of the meal, but the bread – that was Sarah’s domain.
Sarah is always associated with “the tent”, from which we learn the concept of כבוד בת המלך פנימה, that the wellspring of a woman’s spiritual energy emanates from the “tent”, from the home, and conversely, that the glory of the home, is derived primarily from the woman.
Aside from this reference to Sarah baking bread in the tent, the Torah tells us very little else about what actually happened in Sarah’s tent, until this week’s parsha. When Yitzchak marries Rivka, he brings her to the tent of Sarah his mother and Yitzchak is “consoled” after the death of his mother. Rashi, quoting Breishit Rabba, gives us a sneak peek of what actually happened in Sarah’s tent.
שכל זמן ששרה קיימת היה נר דלוק מערב שבת לערב שבת וברכה מצויה בעיסה וענן קשור על האהל (רש"י, שם).
The Midrash tells us that there were three miracles that were associated with Sarah’s tent. The first was that when she lit candles on erev Shabbat, those candles miraculously remained lit the entire week. Secondly, that there was a blessing in the dough, that the dough she made for baking challot for Shabbat, miraculously multiplied and sufficed to make bread for the entire week. Thirdly, a cloud permanently rested on her tent, the Shechina rested on her tent.
Chazal say that HKB”H’s command to build a Mikdash/Mishkan was to recreate for Am Yisrael, the environment that existed in the tents of the Avot and the Imahot - the Menorah, the Lechem Hapanim and the Shechina - in the Mikdash.
In this week’s shiur I would like to discuss Hafrashat Challah and explore some interesting aspects of this mitzva.
Last week was the World Shabbat Project and multitudes of women from all over the globe were mehadrot with this mitzva and in their merit, and in merit of this special mitzva, it should hasten the Geulah בבי"א.
The interesting thing is that women in America, Australia, Canada, the UK, South Africa, Israel and many other countries, performed Hafrashat Challah. The reason that this is interesting, is because the mitzva of Hafrashat Challah, according to the Torah, is only applicable in Eretz Yisrael and in a time when most of Am Yisrael live in Eretz Yisrael. If this is the case, why do women in New York do Hafrashat Challah at all? There are other mitzvot התלויות בארץ, for example ma’aser and truma which are not done in חוץ לארץ, so why is Hafrashat Challah different? Secondly, we have not yet reached the tipping point where the majority of the world’s Jews live in Israel (we are very close, but not quite there yet), so why do we do Hafrashat Challah even in Jerusalem, in Eretz Yisrael today?
The answer is that it is a mitzva de’Rabbanan, to continue to do Hafrashat Challah today, even in חוץ לארץ and even in Israel, although most of the Jews in the world do not live here (yet). Why did the Rabbanim feel it was necessary to make an exception davka with Hafrashat Challah and not with the other mitzvot התלויות בארץ?
Another question is why Avraham deferred the task of making bread to Sarah? If he was so meticulous and diligent in performing the mitzva of hachnasat orchim and prepared the calf tongues in mustard sauce himself (he ran all the way to Hevron to catch one of the calves who had run away – that’s how he discovered Me’arat Hamachpela), why did he not also prepare the bread? And because he gave it to Sarah to prepare, in the end, that bread was not eaten, because as soon as the angel Michael told Avraham that Sarah would bear a child, she immediately became נידה (for the first time in her life).
To answer these questions we need to understand where the mitzva of Hafrashat Challah originates from and its purpose.
In previous shiurim I have brought the Or HaChayim who says that the first time Hafrashat Challah was ever done was when Adam Harishon was created. HKB”H did “Hafrashat Challah” from the earth, taking dust (which was mixed with water in a kind of “dough”) from all corners of the earth, to create Adam Harishon and this is why Adam Harishon is called חלתו של עולם because he is the Hafrashat Challah from the earth. HKB”H separated humans from the גשמיות of the earth and made them קודש. This is the first time Hafrashat Challah was done in history.
The first time a human ever did Hafrashat Challah, was Sarah Imeinu and we learn this from the Rashi above who, quoting the Midrash, says וברכה מצויה בעיסה. It does not say that there was a bracha in her “bread”, but in her “dough” and the Mefarshim say that this bracha (of Hafrashat Challah) that Sarah voluntarily performed, which was continued by Rivka, Rachel, Leah . Bilha and Zilpa, was the forerunner for the commandment given later by HKB”H to Am Yisrael רֵאשִׁית עֲרִסֹתֵכֶם חַלָּה תָּרִימוּ תְרוּמָה וכו'ּ (במדבר טו, כ).
I also addressed in previous shiurim why davka Sarah was the one to institute this bracha, that she and Avraham were a tikkun for Chava and Adam and, since Chava’s sin with the עץ הדעת involved making bread (Meir Panim), Sarah was the one to repair the damage of that sin by doing Hafrashat Challah, every time she made bread.
This explains why Avraham did not prepare the bread and left it up to Sarah - even though Avraham took care of the rest of the meal - because the bread was not his tikkun (for Adam), but Sarah’s tikkun (for Chava). This is also why the first preference for performing Hafrashat Challah on bread today is given to the woman. If the husband wants to do Hafrashat Challah at home, he needs to ask his wife for permission to do so, because it is “her” mitzva.
One of the facets of Adam’s sin was that he did not sufficiently supervise the “kashrut” in his kitchen and mistakenly relied implicitly on Chava, that the food she was giving him to eat was “Kosher”. Avraham repaired this by giving Sarah strict instructions מַהֲרִי שְׁלֹשׁ סְאִים קֶמַח סֹלֶת לוּשִׁי וַעֲשִׂי עֻגוֹת (בראשית יח, ו). It was not that Avraham was telling Sarah how to make bread – she knew how to make bread better than he did - it was revising the halachot of preparing matzot for Pesach. מַהֲרִי, the process must be done in haste (under 18 minutes), לוּשִׁי, constantly kneading and not leaving the dough alone to prevent it becoming chametz, וַעֲשִׂי עֻגוֹת, shape them into round loaves/matzot. This was not a baking lesson it was a halachot lesson, to repair Adam’s lack of diligence in supervising the preparation of his food.
As we see above, the parallel of the Imahot’s ברכה מצויה בעיסה in the Mikdash was the Lechem Hapanim (as the candle’s parallel was the Menorah). This combination of the bread and the candle was echoed by the Shulchan standing alongside the Menorah in the Heichal, as the two are symbiotic – the material bracha of the Lechem Hapanim on the Shulchan (sustenance and parnasa) and the spiritual bracha of the Menorah (the light of the Torah). This principle is explored in depth in sefer Meir Panim.
Although Hafrashat Challah was not taken from the dough of the Lechem Hapanim itself – it is גלגול הקדש which is not חייב for Hafrashat Challah, [Menachot 67a]), the Lechem Hapanim and Hafrashat Challah are intricately connected. They both have the same underlying principle – הכרת הטוב.
This is the fundamental reason we do the mitzva of Hafrashat Challah (besides because HKB”H told us to) - because it expresses gratitude to HKB”H, the Origin and Source of our sustenance.
A second reason for performing Hafrashat Challah is to echo HKB”H’s first Hafrashat Challah, that reflects the reason the world was created in the first place - to elevate the material world in spirituality , taking dust and making it into man, taking dough and making it into קודש.
Why did the Rabbanim decree that we should continue performing Hafrashat Challah today, even though מדאורייתא we are not obliged to perform this mitzva today? And even in galut?
Three reasons are given.
The first is that Chazal wanted us to remain proficient in performing this mitzva, so that when it again becomes applicable מדאורייתא that we will be well practiced in it. But this reason alone does not explain it – you could say the same for ma’aser and truma and we do not do these in galut.
The second reason is that it expresses gratitude and this is something that is perpetual and devoid of time or circumstance.
The third reason is given by the Zohar Hakadosh (פרשת שלח, קמד, ע"א), that Hafrashat Challah is a special “protection” מגן for Am Yisrael. According to the Zohar, there are three angels מיכאל, גבריאל, נוריאל who protect Am Yisrael specifically in merit of this mitzva. The rashei teivot of the names of these angels makes the word מגן. The gematria of the word מגן is equal to the חלה + 50 (1/50 of the dough was the amount taken for Hafrashat Challah in the time of the Beit Hamikdash).
Hafrashat Challah is also an important factor to ensure success in childbirth.
"דנשים מתות בשעת לידתן על שאינן זהירות בנדה ובחלה ובהדלקת הנר (משנה שבת, ב, ו), ומרובה מדה טובה ממדת פורענות, דעל ידי מצות אלו תלדנה ברווח לחיים טובים ולשלום" (רוח חיים, הגר"ח פלאגי, יו"ד שכח).
The Sefer HaChinuch says that Hafrashat Challah ensures good physical and spiritual health –
"כדי שתנוח ברכה בו על ידי המצוה.. ונמצאת העיסה מזון לגוף ומזון לנפש" (ספר החינוך מצוה שפה).
The Gemara tells us that negligence in performing Hafrshat Challah affects parnasa –
"בעון חלה אין ברכה במכונס ומארה משתלחת בשערים וזורעין זרעים ואחרים אוכלין" (שבת לב ע"ב).
The Gemara (Brachot 35b) tells us –
ואמר רבה בר בר חנה אמר רבי יוחנן משום רבי יהודה ברבי אלעאי: בא וראה שלא כדורות הראשונים דורות האחרונים; דורות הראשונים היו מכניסין פירותיהן דרך טרקסמון - כדי לחייבן במעשר, דורות האחרונים מכניסין פירותיהן דרך גגות דרך חצרות דרך קרפיפות - כדי לפטרן מן המעשר.
There is a loophole that if you bring new fruit that is חייב for trumot and ma’asrot, not through the main entrance into the house (the door), but through some other opening, like a window or the roof, according to the halacha it is not obligatory to take trumot and ma’asrot from that fruit. The Gemara says, however, that this was one of the reasons the Beit Hamikdash was destroyed, because Am Yisrael purposely looked for ways to get out of doing these mitzvot.
Similarly, if one wanted to get out of performing Hafrashat Challah, there are numerous ways to do so, but if one does, it can be a very dangerous thing. We should be doing the opposite - actively and passionately seeking to perform as many mitzvot as we possibly can and especially those mitzvot that express gratitude to HKB”H, like Hafrashat Challah. This is what Avraham meant in his eulogy to Sarah (from Eshet Chayil) וְלֶחֶם עַצְלוּת לֹא תֹאכֵל, that she was especially diligent in performing this mitzva.
This explains more than anything else why we continue to perform this mitzva today, even in galut (perhaps even more so in galut), because it is a protection for Am Yisrael.
I would like to devote the remainder of this shiur to explaining the basic halachot of Hafrashat Challah (taken from b”H-my-soon-to-be-published-book “The Jewish Bread Bible”).
The factor that determines whether we are obliged to do Hafrashat Challah or not is as follows: “The dough must contain at least 1 isaron of flour from one of the 5 species of grain (wheat, barley, spelt, rye, oats)”.
One does not do Hafrashat Challah from flour alone, it must be from dough רֵאשִׁית עֲרִסֹתֵכֶם, flour mixed with water. There is a ספק whether we do Hafrashat Challah from dough which is a mixture of flour and another liquid that is not water, like eggs, milk etc. In order to eliminate doubt, if anyone makes dough that does include water as an ingredient (for example cookie dough), it is advisable to add a drop or two of water to the dough to make it חייב for Hafrashat Challah.
Hafrashat Challah is done on dough that is going to be baked (in an oven or over the fire in a pan). If the dough is not going to be baked, but, for example, fried in oil (like dougnuts), there is a ספק whether it requires Hafrashat Challah or not and the halacha in this case is to do Hafrashat Challah without a bracha.
An isaron is a measure of volume. How much flour is that? This is hinted at from the word חלה itself, in gematria = 43. The Mefarshim also say that since the word חלה ends with the letter ה, it hints to the fact that you need to add a “fifth”, in other words 43 and a fifth. Of what? Chazal say 43.2 egg volumes. In other words if you take 43.2 empty eggshells and fill them with flour, that is an isaron of flour.
The Shulchan Aruch (324,1) converts this measure of volume to weight using the (dry weight) measure of an egg as 12 drams (an ancient measure of weight). Therefore according to the Shulchan Aruch the total weight required for Hafrashat Challah is 12 X 43.2 = approximately 520 drams.
According to HaRav Yechezkel Landau (Commentary on Pesachim, 116) the weight of modern eggs is about half the weight of eggs in ancient times. The Chazon Ish (Kuntrus Hashiurim, 39), following in this vein, calculates the volume of an egg as 99.53cm3 and using the density of flour per cm3 as 0.523, the minimum weight of flour required is 99.53 X 43.2 X 0.523 = 2.250kg.
HaRav Haim Naeh does not get involved with the issue of the evolution of the size of the egg as above, but rather bases his calculation (according to the Sephardi method) on the weight of the dram, which according to Sephardi custom is unchanged throughout the ages. Using his calculation of the value of a dram as 3.205g, the minimum weight of flour is 520 drams X 3.205 = 1.667kg.
HaRav Ovadia Yosef also follows the Sephardi approach, but according to his calculations the weight of dram is 3g (based on a study performed by a תלמיד חכם in Egypt and other places, checking in museums and verifying the weight of a dram). According to his calculation, the minimum weight of the flour required is 520 X 3 = 1.560kg. This is the prevailing Sephardi custom.
To summarize - Hafrashat Challah with a ברכה is required if there is a minimum of –
* Chazon Ish: 2.250kg flour (4.96lbs)
* Haim Naeh: 1.667kg flour (3.67lbs)
* Ovadiah Yosef: 1.560kg flour (3.44lbs)
According to some Acharonim, to eliminate doubt, one should do Hafrashat Challah already starting at 1.2kg (2.76lbs). Thus, if there is 1.2kg or more of flour, but less than the above amounts of flour (depending on which custom you follow, Chazon Ish, Haim Naeh or Ovadiah Yosef), you perform Hafrashat Challah without a ברכה.
What amount do we remove from the main dough?
* Ashkenazim – 'kezayit' (approximately 30g, half a L sized egg),
* Sephardim – 1/24 of the dough for private individuals,
1/48 of the dough for businesses (bakeries etc.).
There is a custom to take double the above amounts above during עשרת ימי תשובה as a hidur mitzva.
It is advisable to take a piece of aluminum foil and using that, remove the piece of Hafrashat Challah dough from the main dough and wrap it in the foil, to not get any dough on your hands. If you take the dough out with your hands and after that place it in foil, you must meticulously wash all remaining dough off your hands after saying the bracha, because the dough remaining on your hands is also kodesh and must not be mixed in later with the rest of the dough.
The ברכה we say as we do Hafrashat Challah is –
* Ashkenazim “אשר קדשנו במצוותיו וצונו להפריש חלה מן העיסה”
* Sephardim “אשר קדשנו במצוותיו וצונו להפריש חלה תרומה”
You then raise this piece of dough up in the air and say הרי זו חלה and finally add להוסיף את כל הקמח שיתווסף לעיסה זו, in case you will be later adding more flour while working with the dough.
The piece of Hafrashat Challah dough (wrapped in foil) is kodesh and we are not allowed to derive any benefit from it (in the time of the Mikdash this was eaten by the Kohanim). It therefore must be burnt until longer edible. Following that it may be discarded. There are various customs in this regard, some burn it in the oven at the same time the bread is baking, others burn it separately.
If you have not performed Hafrashat Challah on the dough, any product of that dough may not be eaten.
The best time to do Hafrashat Challah is immediately after preparing the dough, so that you do not forget. If you forgot to do Hafrashat Challah and have already baked the dough, you may still do Hafrashat Challah from the final product (bread, cookies, etc.). Gather all the breads/cookies/etc. into one bowl with high walls, so that all the baked goods are completely surrounded (alternatively, place all the baked goods on a cloth and then fold the cloth over them from all sides) and then do Hafrashat Challah as above.
You may not perform Hafrashat Challah on Shabbat or Chag. If the only bread you have is bread that has not had Hafrashat Challah taken from it, you should consult with a Rav what to do in this circumstance.
There are many halachot related to Hafrashat Challah, one could not possibly encompass all of them in a shiur of this length, but the above are the bare essentials.
The glory of the home emanates from the woman and in no small part, in merit of this special mitzva. יהי רצון that HKB”H should give us the זכות to once again perform this mitzva מדאורייתא and the the Kohanim should soon be zocheh once again to partake of the Hafrashat Challah in ירושלים עיר הקודש שתבנה ותכונן בבי"א.