I just have to say that I’m really excited :) I just bought a pocket set of the Artscroll Tanach, which includes Torah, the Prophets, and Writings. Each is its own separate little bound sefer/book. The English side has summaries in the margin of what’s going on in the parasha. Until now I’ve been using my parents’ big copy. When I go to Israel this summer I’ll take my new pocket one with me and I can’t wait to use it ’cause it’s so cute!!!!!
Anyway… in this week’s parasha there’s some really exciting goings-on! Hashem commands Moshe Rabbeinu to send meraglim, spies, into the Land of Cana’an (later known as Eretz Yisroel or Israel) to check out the land. Moshe sends out a group of twelve righteous men, one from each tribe, for this mission. He prays specifically for his prize student, Yehoshua, to have a successful trip.
Upon the spies’ return, they explain to the people that the Land is scary and dangerous, and will be impossible to conquer. While Calev tries to disagree, he is shushed and everybody listens to the ten other spies (excluding Calev and Yeshoshua), leading the nation to panic in anticipation of entering the Land. Yehoshua and Calev again try to convince the people of the Land’s goodness but this time the people threaten to kill them! Hashem gets angry with the Jewish people and Moshe prays to save the nation from being destroyed. Hashem forgives the people for their sin (not believing Hashem’s word that the Land is good) and decrees forty years of wandering in the desert as punishment in return for the forty days the meraglim spent in the Land.
Soon after the debacle with the meraglim, the people decide they are ready to go up to the Land. Alas, Moshe Rabbeinu tells them, Hashem is not going to take them in yet and to go up to the Land would be foolish. Some people decide to go in anyway and they get chased out by the nations living there.
Next Hashem teaches Moshe Rabbeinu laws of different sacrifices and their libations, to be brought after entering the Land, followed by the laws of Challah, and the punishment for idol worship.
One man is deliberately mechallel Shabbos, he breaks Shabbos, to teach the rest of the people what happens when one desecrates Shabbos. He is killed. After this, Hashem another mitzvah, commandment, to Moshe Rabbeinu to teach to the people, that of Tzitzis, a mitzvah which reminds us of all other mitzvos.
With this, the parasha leaves us off until next week.
It’s interesting to me that two of the most central mitzvos of our lives are featured in this week’s parasha. For men, tzitzis is a very relevant mitzvah, as it applies every day, all the time. There is a whole paragraph in the Shema dedicated to the mitzvah of tzitzis! Learning that this mitzvah‘s purpose is to remind the wearer of all of Hashem’s mitzvos is good proof for why it’s such an important mitzvah! Not sure what tzitzis is? Ever see an Orthodox man with white (and sometimes blue – that’s to remind him of the sky, which makes him think of Hashem!) fringes sticking out of his shirt? That’s tzitzis!
So what special mitzvah this week applies to women? After all, tzitzis is clearly a men’s mitzvah! Remember earlier we mentioned the mitzvah of Challah being taught in this parasha?
Challah is one of the woman’s three special mitzvos! Within Eretz Yisroel, it is a Torah commandment, while here outside of Eretz Yisroel (in Chutz La’aretzi) Challah is only a Rabbinic commandment. Either way, it’s something we’re obligated to do and it’s a very special mitzvah.
In the times of the Temple, when the whole Jewish nation lived and functioned as we’re intended to, Challah was given to the Kohanim (priests) for Shabbos. Now we do it in remembrance and since we can’t bring it to the Bais Hamikdash to donate it, we burn it instead.
What is the mitzvah? Whenever you bake bread, take a fistful out and say “Harei zeh Challah” “behold this is Challah” which consecrates it as holy! If your dough is five pounds or more, you can now say the bracha, the blessing, of l’hafrish Challah, to separate Challah.
ברוך אתה ה’ אלקנו מלך העולם אשר קדשנו במצותיו וצונו להפריש חלה מן העסה
“Baruch Atah Hashem Elokeinu Melech Ha’olam asher kidshanu b’mitzvosav v’tzivanu l’hafrish Challah min ha’isah.”
Blessed are You, Hashem our G-d, King of the Universe, Who has sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us to separate Challah from the dough.
If the dough is not five pounds, just skip straight to the next step of wrapping the dough in foil and sticking it in the oven. As long as it is fully wrapped, you can burn the dough with other things in the oven. The mitzvah of Challah is a very special time for Tefillah, for davening/praying. Many women form groups to daven for a certain person to have a child or to recover from an illness in the merit of their separating Challah. No matter whether you’re doing it with friends or alone, the mitzvah of Challah provides a special time for you to connect with Hashem and communicate with Him!
You know those loaves of bread we eat on Shabbos? They’re only called Challah because of the mitzvah that we do with the dough!
If you have any questions about this mitzvah, feel free to comment and we’ll try to get you an answer, or ask your local Orthodox Rabbi!
Here’s my family’s favorite Challah recipes! Enjoy!
Famous Challah from the Spice and Spirit Cookbook
This recipe is just under 5 pounds so if you want to make a bracha you’ll have to add a little more flour and I don’t take responsibility for what happens then :)
13-14 c. flour
4 tbsp. yeast
2 eggs, beaten
1 c. oil
2 tbsp. salt
1 c. sugar
4 c. warm water
Dissolve yeast in water. Water temperature should be 95-105 degrees. When dissolved, add sugar, salt, and half the flour. Mix well. Add eggs and oil, then slowly stir in most of the remaining flour. Dough will become quite thick. Knead until it’s smooth and elastic. Cover with a damp towel and let rise in a warm place for 2 hours, punching down in 4 or 5 places every 20 minutes. Shape, rise again, egg it. Bake 375 for 20 minutes, or until nicely browned.
Whole Wheat Challah from Mrs. Hirschman, Passaic, NJ
5¾ cups warm water
6 Tbsp. yeast
1½ cups sugar
1½ Tbsp. salt
1½ cups oil
5 lb. whole wheat flour
8 Tbsp. gluten
Mix yeast and water. Add all of the other ingredients. You can put flour and gluten in last. After kneading the dough, either let the dough rise and then shape the challahs to rise again, or shape the challahs right after kneading the dough and the challahs will rise one time. Bake at 375° F. (We recently cut out the 8 Tbsp of gluten and found that it just makes the challah shapes be a little more spread out before baking. Taking it out makes the challah a lot lighter for eating which is nice, though.)
Listening to “V’Nikasi” on the album “Ananim” by Nochi Krohn on Erev Shabbos Mode on jewishmusicstream.com!
Have a beautiful Shabbos!