The traditional Mitzvah of hafrashat Challah (“taking” or “separating” challah) refers to removing and burning a small piece of challah dough as a symbolic offering before baking (some people throw away that piece instead of burning). In the time of the ancient temple in Jerusalem the Israelites would give challah as an offering to the kohanim (priests). This mitzvah created a connection between groups of people who had separate roles in society and brought holiness to a mundane act. Today, as many of us are feeling deep grief, horror and emptiness, we can perform this mitzvah of “taking” challah as a way to connect us to the wider Jewish community. In the moment when all of us take challah together and bless it, we will also ask for healing for the wounded, peace for the souls we lost, and safe, rapid return for the captives, still held by the terrorists. You are welcome to bring with you the names of loved ones that you are holding with you at this moment, or a collective thought of the Israeli people, in this devastating war that came on Israel a week ago.
We will say this blessing, before we start our braiding:
Holding the piece of challah, say the blessing:
בָּרוּך אַתָּה יהוה אֱלהֵינוּ מֱלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם אֲשֶר קִדְּשֳנוּ
בְּמצְוֹתָיו וְצִוָנוּ לְהַפְרִישׁ חַלָּה מִן הָעִסָּה
Barukh ata Adonai Eloheinu melekh ha’olam asher kidshanu b’mitzvotav v’tzivanu l’hafreesh challah min ha’eesah.
Blessed are You, Lord our God, Ruler of the Universe, who has sanctified us with commandments, and commanded us to separate challah.
Hold the piece of dough and say “harei zo challah” (This is challah).
We will then take a moment for quiet reflections, meditation and thought.