Challah at a bakery
Challah at a bakeryiStock

The Torah says:(15:17-22)’בבואכם אל הארץ אשר אני נותן לכם:When you come to the Land which I give to you; when you eat the bread of the Land, you shall set aside a portion for Hashem; חלה:The first of your kneading.. you shall give a portion to Hashem, for your generations’.

Earlier in that same Parsha, we read that the spies, the Meraglim, who, at the insistence of the people, had been sent out (13:2) to ‘spy out the Land‘ that Hashem had given to Bnei Israel’, instead ‘brought back an evil report on the Land: ויוציאו דיבת הארץ, they had spied out’(13:32).

Rav Zalman Sorotzkin links the two passages:’The offering of the Challah, ‘the first of your kneading’, was to atone for the sin of the Meraglim. They entered the Land with the intention of finding fault with it, and להוציא דיבה: to speak badly about it, so as to sway the hearts of the people against entering it.

‘Instead, they should have praised its soil, and kissed its stones, and thanked Hashem for giving them the zechut, the merit, to be the first to enter the Land that He had promised to the Patriarchs.

‘To atone for this, Bnei Israel were now commanded:’When you come to the Land to which I shall bring you’, from the first kneading of its produce, ‘you shall offer it to Hashem’.

The Sforno sees another causal link between the two passages:’As a result of the transgression of the Meraglim, for there to be blessing in theIr houses, they needed the offering of the challah, as the prophet says:(Ezekiel 44:30)’You shall give the first portion of your dough to the Kohen, to bring a blessing to rest upon your home’.

Our Sages see this offering ‘as a pre-condition’ to entering the Land, saying (Sifri Zuta):’קבל עליך עד שלא תבוא אל הארץ:Accept upon yourselves, before you come to the Land, that, when you come to it, you shall מפריש חלה: set aside from your first kneading, Challah; and, in the merit of this acceptance, you will enter the Land’.

Generations of our people yearned with all their hearts to enter the Promised Land, and, throughout the long and bitter galut, did not cease this yearning; nor did they cease to offer the Challah offering, to Hashem, praying that they merit to offer it to Hashem, again, in the Land.

Throughout their exile from the Land, they believed that they would merit to do so, as David Hamelech so eloquently expressed:(Ps’ 126)’When’- NOT ‘IF’- Hashem WILL return the captivity of Zion, we will be like dreamers;..O Hashem, return our captivity like springs in the desert’.