What I learned from a Challah

As I was sitting at the Shabbos table this past Shabbos, staring at the oversized challah cover that always seems way too large for the challah underneath, I suddenly realized how much we can learn from challah.
After all ,what is the reason we cover the challah during Kiddush? So that is should not be shamed that we make the bracha on the wine before the bread.
Now imagine, if the Torah bids us to have such sensitivity for a challah, and such respect for  bread, how much more so must we have sensitivity and respect for a fellow Jew!
How can we shame a person? Or feel superior to another person? We can see that the wine is not allowed to feel superior to the challah…..we have to acknowledge the challahs “feelings”.
The Torah always teaches us to be sensitive to others and not to shame anyone. The Lubavitcher Rebbe was very careful never to shame another Jew. And the Torah is filled with stories of tzadikim who did such amazing things such as jumping into a fiery furnace rather than allowing another Jew to be shamed at taking tzedaka. Or there is the story of Tamar who refused to shame Yehuda even when she was being taken out to be burnt.
Embarrassing or hurting another Jew is something we have to become very sensitive about.
We have to think to ourselves that every Jew has a soul, a part of G-d, and one person’s soul is not better than another’s. In essence we are all one. We all come from the same Source.
The second Beis Hamikdash was destroyed because of sinas chinam, unwarranted hatred.  This is something we have to correct all the time, not just during the three weeks (between 17 of Tamuz and Tisha B'Av).
Unwarranted hatred does not only mean being cruel to someone or behaving maliciously. It can even be a subtle feeling of superiority, a feeling of looking down at another person, of feeling we are better, we are more important to G-d.  Or there could be a feeling of jealousy. That other person is better than me, or has more than me. So I am subconsciously upset. I don’t like that person anymore. That person takes up space that makes me feel inadequate…..THAT is sinas chinam. That person did not do anything to me, but I find myself feeling bothered by the person. Why?
We keep reading about worldwide problems and horrible tragedies that the Rabbonim keep saying are because of lack of achdus, lack of ahavas yisroel.  And yet somehow it is so difficult to develop the necessary sensitivity to another….it is so difficult to put aside our egos and to make space for another. It is so difficult to look at each person as a neshomah, as a holy and precious neshomah that has every right to exist and serve Hashem…..every Jew is someone that Hashem wants, that Hashem created and has pleasure from.  

So we learn from the challah:
The wine is not allowed to look down at the challah. The challahs feelings are taken into consideration.
And the challah is not allowed to be jealous of the wine. The challah is covered….the challahs feelings are covered as well so there is no embarrassment and at the same time no jealousy.
We have to cover over our feelings. We have to remove jealousy from our hearts.

The Tzemach Tzedek, the third Lubavitcher Rebbe, said that ahavas yisroel means that we do not see the faults in another Jew. What is hateful to you, do not do unto another. What does that mean? Hillel said that is the entire Torah. But what is hateful to you? When someone exposes your faults. When someone brings to the conscious awareness of others, or even to yourself,  your low points, your flaws.
So do not expose someone’s faults. Do not bring them into consciousness. Do not emphasize them. Do not pay attention to them. And on a higher level , do not even see them.
And then something amazing takes place in the spiritual realms; when we do not see the faults of another Jew, we do not see any blemish in another Jew, G-d also does not see the blemishes in Israel or in the Jewish nation as a whole. G-d does not pay attention to faults and He pardons and forgives all the Jewish people. So by increasing in ahavas yisroel we actually cause G-d to look favorably upon His nation. That is why we can bring redemption because then He sees us as being worthy of redemption since He sees no fault in us!
This is a very powerful lesson.
Next time you want to speak against someone, think twice.
Next time you wish to criticize, or be judgmental of someone, just think to yourself that we want G-d to judge us and all the Jewish people favorably. Is it really so difficult to avoid being judgmental of someone else?
The answer is yes. It really is difficult. And one reason is that before judging anyone, G-d brings a situation in front of that person and allows that person to judge that situation. Then G-d judges that person the same way . So if you see someone who is ill , or who is suffering, never say the person deserves that , G-d forbid. Always say something positive such as “G-d should bring salvation to that person”, or  “G-d should heal that person”. By avoiding judgmental statements we actually save ourselves from judgment.  We actually pass judgment on ourselves, but in a positive way.
And the same thing with the entire Jewish nation. Never make negative statements about the Jews. Even Eliyahu hanavi was “punished” for speaking against the Jewish people. Because he said to G-d that the Jewish people do not observe bris milah, G-d sends him to every bris to be a witness.
But the Zohar explains that it is really much deeper than that. Eliyah hanavi saw that the satan wanted to denounce the Jewish people to G-d, saying they do not observe bris milah properly. And he did not want the satan to be at every bris. So he volunteered to do it himself so he would be at every bris and be able to bless the Jews.
It is an avoda to learn to speak nicely and not to talk against another Jew or group of Jews. We have to learn to speak up for truth, for Torah, but never to specifically put down or speak against any Jew.
This is part of the process of refinement we have to go through and it is part of the process of bringing geula to the world. The Lubavitcher Rebbe was so careful never to speak badly of another Jew and never to shame anyone.
One good way to help ourselves is to learn baal peh (by heart) parts of Tanya. Tanya is the hidden mystical part of Torah. When we say Tanya baal peh it brings geula , redemption, to the world. So when you feel your yetzer hara (negative inclination) inciting you to speak against someone, stop yourself and instead say words of Torah. This in itself would break many decrees and obstacles and bring refinement to the world and to our own souls.
May we all merit the complete geula with Moshiach now.  May we all merit a kesiva vchasima tova.
And next time you eat challah on Shabbos, think about how much sensitivity we have to learn and practice towards our fellow Jews….it is a weekly reminder!

CHALLAH RECIPE: (no eggs)
4 cups warm water
2 tbsps dry instant yeast (around 2 pkgs)
2/3 c. oil
2/3 c. sugar
1 1/2 tbsps salt
14 c. flour 

Dissolve yeast in 1/2 c. water with a spoon of sugar. 
When it bubbles add the remaining water and then add the oil and mix well.
Add part of the flour along with the sugar and incorporate.
Add the salt and mix in.
Add remaining flour slowly until dough is smooth.
Put into an oiled bowl, covered, and allow to rise for about 1 1/2 hours.
Make the blessing and separate a piece of challah (this is a special mitzvah described below)
Shape the challahs into braids or rounds. Put on a baking pan, cover and allow to rise another hour. Brush with egg (if you want to), sprinkle on sesame seeds and then bake  at 350 degrees for about 40 mins, or until challahs are browned on top and well done. 

TRADITIONAL CHALLAH RECIPE WITH EGGS:
3 to 4 pkgs instant dry yeast
3 1/2 c. warm water
3/4 c. sugar
1 1/2 tbsps salt
1 c. oil
6 eggs slightly beaten
13 to 14 c. flour

Dissolve yeast in warm water. Add sugar, salt and half the flour. Mix well.
Add eggs and oil, then slowly add remaining flour. You can use an electric mixer. Once dough pulls away from sides, take it out onto a board or counter and knead by hand for about 10 minutes. Add only enough flour to keep dough from sticking. PLace dough in oiled bowl. Cover and let rise in warm place for 2 hours, punching down in a few places every 20 minutes or so. 
Separate challah with the blessing.
Shape the loaves. can brush with egg and put on seeds if you like.  let rise until double in size. Bake at 375 until browned. 

** Mitzvah of taking challah:  When the Jewish people first lived in the land of Israel, one of the gifts they had to give to the Cohanim (the priestly tribe) who served in the Beit Hamikdash, the holy Templme, was a portion of their dough. The first and best portion. This gift of food was known as challah. Today since the destruction of the Beit Hamikdash we do not give this to the Cohanim. But we do separate a portion of our dough and burn it. 
This mitzvah is entrusted to Jewish women and girls. The idea is to convey to all of us that our sustenance truly comes from G-d. We also have to remember to give a portion of our livelihood to charity . This mitzvah of separating challah , our sages tell us, will cause a blessing to rest in our homes. It instills faith in all members of our household. This mitzvah of separating challah is also symbolic of the entire mitzvah of kashrut, eating kosher. Not all dough requires separating challah: it depends upon the amount of flour used.  It must be 5 or more pounds of flour that is used in that batch of dough.
The way to do this mitzvah is:  You say the following bracha (blessing) before taking off a  piece of raw dough, before shaping the bread. "Baruch Atah Ado-Nai Elo-Henu Melech haolam, asher kidishanu b’mitzvotav v’tzivanu l’hafrish challah."
After saying the bracha you separate the piece of dough and you wrap it in tin foil and burn it. when you burn that piece of challah, you should not bake anything else in the oven at the same time.  
when doing the mitzvah of taking challah, it is an auspicious time to pray for anything you need and to pray for others, particularly for health, parnassa (livelihood), shidduchim and so on.