Hafrashat Challah at Rachel's Tomb
Hafrashat Challah at Rachel's TombEliran Aharon

We read in Parasha Shlach the Mitzvah of Challah:(15:17-21):’When you come to the Land to which I bring you; It shall be that when you will eat of the bread of the Land, you shall set aside a portion for Hashem. ראשית עריסתכם:From the first of your kneadings you shall set aside a loaf as a portion...From the first of your kneadings shall you give a portion to Hashem, for your generations’.

Rav Chaim miChernowitz expounds:’The Torah here teaches that, when you set aside a portion, it shall be ‘for Hashem’, you thereby ALSO ‘raise’ the rest of the bread, to Hashem, when you partake of the rest.

‘This is why the Torah here uses the double expression for raising: תרימו תרומה.

‘To understand this, let us recall the teaching of our Sages: ‘Whoever benefits from anything in this world, without first uttering a blessing, is as if he stole from Hashem’, because all in heaven and earth belong to Hashem; only when we first ‘bless’ Hashem, is it ‘ours’ by Hashem’s grace.

‘The reason for this is that all of man’s needs which Hashem provides are not given to satisfy man’s ‘animalistic’ desires, but to enable us to serve our Creator, is by granting man the ability, through his mundane activities such as eating, to elevate all aspects of his life, and infuse them with sanctity.

‘This is why we received this Mitzvah, to ‘elevate’ the first of our first kneading, so that we do not serve Hashem out of rote, in performing Mitzvot, without first reflecting on why we perform them- as then our Mitzvot are like a body without a soul.

‘However, if before we perform a Mitzvah, we first set before us ‘why’ we are performing the Mitzvah, and understand that it we are thereby fulfilling the Will of our Creator, we are then aroused to perform the Mitzvah with desire and passion, out of great love, with an awareness of before Whom we stand, and Whom we serve, and thus strive to perform it in a manner befitting servants of the King of Kings.

‘This is also how we should approach Mitzvot involving an object of this world, such as an etrog, bearing in mind that we are ‘putting the Name of Hashem’ on the physical item, thereby elevating it to becoming a ‘different’, a ‘new’ entity, from which it was previously.

‘In His eternal wisdom, to assist us in this wondrous process, Hashem commanded that before we obtain any benefit from this world, we first perform a Mitzvah with it, such as setting aside the portion to Hashem, before partaking of our daily bread.

‘By doing so, not only is the portion set aside imbued with sanctity, but so too is the rest of the bread, because, by setting aside the portion, we have ‘testified’ that all truly ‘belongs’ to Hashem, and we merit to ‘make a dwelling for Hashem in this lowly world’, as is His desire since He created this world’.

The Sefer haChinuch, in describing this Mitzvah of ‘setting aside Challah’, expounds :’Amongst the ‘roots’ of this Mitzvah, is that since man’s existence is dependent on his sustenance, and most of the world is sustained by bread, Hashem wanted to give us merit with a constant Mitzvah relating to our daily bread, so that we should thereby merit to have zechut for our souls, and sustenance for both body and soul’.

The Netivot Shalom expounds our passage homiletically:’בבואכם אל הארץ אשר אני מביא אתכם שמה: When you come to perform your earthly duties, know that ‘I have brought you to them’: that the desire you have for them, comes not from the physical sphere, but from the spiritual sphere; that this is so that you can elevate them and infuse them with sanctity. Your descent to this world was for this very purpose:that you should infuse G-dliness into the physical world, and thereby draw closer to Hashem, either by performing Mitzvot with sanctity, or by resisting your animal urges, and abstaining from improper attractions.
‘We can now understand why the Torah, in the concluding sentence, uses the limiting word:’From the first..’, and not ‘the first’.

By setting aside the first portion, the challah, we sanctify the beginning, and the rest is deemed by Hashem to be also sanctified, even if we are not able ourselves to maintain the sanctity thereafter; the fact that our first thought and intention was for Hashem and sanctity, imbues all thereafter with sanctity.

‘This is because the ‘first’ is always the most precious in a person’s mind; by setting it aside for Hashem, be it in the Mitzvah of challah, or in the Mitzvah of Bikurim, it is therefore especially beloved by Hashem.

‘This offering of our ‘first’ to Hashem, applies not only in the performance of Mitzvot, but equally in the sphere of time. We dedicate the first of the year, Rosh Hashana, to Hashem, as we do the beginning of each month, the Roshei Chodashim. And, more frequently, the beginning of each day, as we perform the requisite prayers and morning seder, before we perform any mundane daily tasks.

‘Thus, we may conclude, the Mitzvah of setting aside the first portion of our kneading, is but one example of a fundament of our avodat Hashem- the purpose of which is to elevate all we do in our daily life, to infuse it with sanctity, and to bring the Kingdom of Hashem to this world’.

If we learn from our Parasha how precious the ראשית: the first, is in Hashem’s eyes, surely this should be the guiding principle in raising our children.

Indeed, says Rav Moshe Sternbuch:’The Torah here alludes to the Torah being the first consideration in our lives. In saying:’From the first kneading you shall give a portion to Hashem, for your generations’, it is stating that the Torah should be at the head of our considerations in raising our children, as only if we give this ‘first offering’ to Hashem, in their education, will w e merit that our ‘generations’: ourchildren, will be true servants of Hashem.

‘If, on the other hand, Torah is given the same importance as other, mundane matters- and more so, if these other matters are given precedence - he will not merit to have generations that are blessed and righteous’.

A parting insight from Rav Moshe Feinstein:’The prophet Yechezkel gives a special blessing for the observance of the Mitzvah of setting aside a portion of the kneading to Hashem, that it will bring blessing to his household.

‘We do not find a similar bracha for observing the other trumot and ma’asarot- why not?

‘We must therefore say that there is a difference between those offerings AND challah: all of those are given from the ‘income’ derived, whilst challah is an initial outlay, unrelated to the final outcome.
‘Indeed, the reason that challah, which is unrelated to the outcome, is preferable, is because human nature is to incline to defer giving these other tithes, thinking that perhaps other ventures that month may not succeed, and that, therefore, he may not, on balance, be required to give any of those tithes.

‘Sadly, some peoppe keep a running balance in their ‘books’ all their lives, based on this calculation , and are taken from this world without paying their dues- and woe to them in the Final Judgement.

‘Challah, on the other hand, is one of the ‘ingredients’ of our daily bread- we partake of it without regard to these other considerations and therefore it alone is obligated at the outset, we are commanded to set it aside immediately upon entering the Land- whereas the other tithes are only due ‘after success’: the conquest and division of the Land’.

Might I add: by setting aside this first portion immediately upon entering the Land, we are thanking Hashem for the zechut to have entered His House, the Land of Israel, and to partake of its blessed produce.- In return, He blesses our houses!

לרפואת נועם עליזה בת זהבה רבקה ונחום עלימלך רפאל בן זהבה רבקה, בתוך שאר חולי עמנו.