Challah making is a lesson in pastries and prayer

Sara Briman said the secret behind a good challah is not the pastry, but the prayer behind each ingredient.

The chef from Hotel Encanto Acapulco in Mexico, whose challah won the American Academy of Hospitality Science’s Five-Star Diamond Award, visited The Shul in Surfside last Thursday to share the meaning of challah making with local women.

“I feel that it is not a coincidence that my challah received the award and not my souffle or my pastries,” Briman said. “Challah is not only a physical food, but it’s a spiritual one too. Each one of the ingredients becomes an inspiration for prayer to ask Hashem for blessings.”

The rhythm of kneading and the aroma of yeast and flour filled The Shul as more than 200 women from different branches of Judaism shared in the Jewish practice of challah making.

The Shul’s Sisterhood hosted the event, called Loaves of Love, not as a cooking class, but as a way to bring the women together over a shared tradition.

“I make challah every week and I’ve taught over 20 people how to make it,” said Tila Levi, 32, of Bal Harbour, who has been a member of The Shul since she was 5. “It’s one of the main responsibilities of a Jewish woman and facilitating so many women at once creates this positive energy that we can all take back home with us.”

The women used their hands to mix together the seven ingredients that correspond to Shabbat, the seventh day of the week: dry yeast, flour, eggs, sugar, oil, water and salt.

Each woman created two servings of dough to be frozen — one for themselves and one for someone else. They could either take the second dough home, or leave it at The Shul to be donated to Holocaust survivors.

“I am sure that these delicious Loaves of Love will warm the hearts of the recipients,” said Rebbetzin Chani Lipskar, wife of Rabbi Sholom Lipskar. “It is a great mitzvah to put joy into the hearts of these very special people.”

Kayla Azari, 19, of Bay Harbor Islands, left her second serving with The Shul.

“I know they’ll give it to the right people — to someone who needs it more than I do. That’s the importance of it all,” Azari said. “We can learn from each other and give to one another. Challah brings the community together.”

Briman walked the women step-by-step through her challah recipe, reciting her personal prayers, matching them with the ingredients’ symbolism.

“The yeast makes the dough rise. I ask that each day be one of growth for me and my family. We should rise above any difficulty in our lives,” Briman said. “The egg is the symbol of life. I ask for a good life with good health for me and for all around me.”

Briman also prayed for unity in the water, materialistic riches in the oil, sweetness in the sugar and balance in the salt.

Before the women are to bake the bread, they are to break off a piece of dough for God.

“It’s a transformation from physical dough to holy challah,” Lipskar said.

Lipskar got the idea for Loaves of Love from her niece, who hosted the event in her New York shul.

“We’re always thinking about what we can duplicate and introduce into our community to strengthen our own Jewish women,” Lipskar said. “We’re helping them become attuned to the feminine soul.”

“It is all of this positive energy that transforms a few simple ingredients into a beautiful, delicious challah,” Briman said. “It adds that magical flavor that can’t be bought.”

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