It’s Wednesday, just the perfect day to remind you to get to work on that challah you learned about here :-). So in case you needed a little inspiration while you’re shopping out for ingredients and baking, here are some wonderful lessons that the mitzvah of Challah can teach us on educating our children.
1- Details: When we make challah we try to use good ingredients- if possible, flour made for bread for example. The temperature of our kitchens affect the dough so we try to keep the kitchen warm, rather than cold. There’s women who even say that their mood has an impact on how the bread comes out. In a similar vein, when we raise our kids, each detail in their surroundings is important and essential to the final outcome- the words that are said, how these are said, what images are on the walls, the music heard, the “emotional temperature” of the household, the friendships, school environment, and so on. All of these and many other details impact the spiritual makeup of that child. It is thus, in our hands as mothers, to be selective in the ingredients that will affect their lives.
2- Water: Traditionally compared to Torah. It is our obligation as mothers to offer our kids the spiritual compass that they have inherited- the Torah. Allow them to know where they are coming from and what is expected of them as members of our nation.
3- Oil: The kings of Israel where anointed with oil; each one selected by H” to be the King of our people. In a similar vein, our children are anointed, selected by G-d for a unique mission in this world that only they can accomplish. Part of our job as mothers is to help them understand this, to give them the tools to find that mission, and to utilize all the potential that H” has given them to fulfill their unique mission.
4- Sugar: Just like yeast needs sugar to grow, children need sweetness, praises, encouragement, smiles, love and fun. This helps them grow confident and sure of themselves, and to be excited about life and about being Jewish.
5- Salt: Without salt, the dough will not hold. However, as much as salt is vital to the dough, too much of it or too little of it, can ruin the entire recipe. Children also need some criticism, some discipline and seriousness in order to be able to face life and its inevitable hardships. One cannot shelter them completely from life’s harshness. However, this “salt” must be counterbalanced by the “sugar.” Just as with challah, when we raise our kids, the proportion always needs to be a lot more “sugar” than “salt.”
6- Kneading: After we’ve added all the ingredients, it’s time to knead. As my husband always says, challah always comes out better when made by hand. The more we knead that dough, the better the bread will come out. In the same way, when we raise our kids, we have to give it “all that we’ve got.” As my mother always says, they won’t get raised by themselves. The more effort we put into our role as mothers/parents, the better the outcome.
One shapes them until the point at which…We have to let them grow. We did all that we could do, we put the best ingredients and in the right proportions and we kneaded with all our strength. Now it’s time to let the dough rise. We cover it and protect it from external winds and leave it alone. It is then, when it grows the most. Similarly, at some point we have to pause and give our kids their independence; have faith that we have done all that we could, have faith in H”, and let them learn on their own. If we keep uncovering, and fussing with the dough, it will not grow! Only when we leave it alone and give it time, and sometimes, a lot of time, will the dough grow and even double in size! Some doughs grow slowly and some much faster. Similarly, each child is different, put at some point we have to let each of them be and just watch them grow.
Finally, the dough grew and it’s time to take out the first piece of dough and do the blessing. It is not a piece to enjoy, but rather one of recognizing that ultimately everything comes from H” and not just from the work of our hands. We are recognizing that all the efforts we put into our kids, as well as all their achievements, are really not just our own, but a true blessing from H”. In addition, when we remember G-d in such a simple action as separating challah, we are teaching our kids that all of our life’s work and all our achievements, are not just ours, but that there is something much greater than us.
So in the end, a great responsibility has been placed on us, and just as we work, stretch, pound and shape that dough, we shape our kids (and our husbands although they may not admit it). It takes time, practice, patience… a lot of patience, for the results to be what we hope for, but with H”s help, the result could be great. May H” bless us all mothers, with nachat from our children and true happiness for all.
As you can see, I still have a lot of kneading to do …