Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Make God Dance by Baking Challah

It's always amusing and interesting to see how customs shift and develop over time. A new example is the fetish many are making over "challah baking" and the belief that the act of kneading some dough and putting it in the oven can win divine mercy and cause the creator of the universe to drop everything and act on your behalf. (See the shared link below)

The origins of the custom are as follows:

1: Yechezkel announces that giving gifts to the priests causes a blessing to rest on your house. (Total Unrelated Coincidence: Yechezkel was a priest!!) See Ezek: 44:30

(By the way, in this context: "Challah" is one of the gifts a priest gets (the first of the dough.))

2: The Mishna warns that women will die in childbirth if they don't take Challah (by which we mean, giving the priest his gift from the dough.)

3: The Gemarah says that lots of bad things will happen to you if you neglect to deliver challah to the priest. See Shabbat 32:B

  •  Though Ezekiel promises a blessing, he does not disclose the nature of the blessing. He just says it will "rest on the house"
  • The rule about giving the priest a gift of dough can be carried out by anyone. It does not have to be a women. And, presumably, if a man does it the blessing is delivered all the same.
  • Bad things happen to you irrespective of who (man or woman) fails to deliver the dough to the priest
  • All people get their sins examined when they are in danger. Women are in danger when they are in childbirth, hence their sins are examined at that time.
SUM UP: None of this has anything to do with BAKING Challah or women per se, or groups of women gathering to bake challah. The point is the gift of dough (which can be dough used for any type of bread) and getting it delivered to a kohen by either a man OR a woman.

However, somehow (and you can probably connect the dots yourself) this old idea that bringing dough to the priest invites blessing has morphed into this new idea that baking challah compels God to do what you want.

And of course, there is probably no way, at this late date, to stamp it out. 
Women in our community believe that challah baking assists children with cancer and injuries in some positive way.

Picture taken from post in a Jewish cooking group.
(Name of the person posting and group have been blocked out to avoid from embarrassing them as their intentions are certainly pure)

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