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disappears through the swinging
doors that lead into the kitchen, and it
comes out some time later, neatly
sliced and ready to serve.
At some parties that I have been to,
the family does it differently. They all
gather around the challah, and
instead of cutting it with a knife, each
member of the family tears off a
piece. It involves everyone in the
mitzvah, and it is much more infor-
mal and heimish than having one per-
son do it, and then having the people
in the kitchen do the rest. And it is
certainly easy to do.
Level two: Consider baking the chal-
lah yourself, as a family project. Baking
the challah yourself is literally a hands-
on mitzvah, is it not? And knowing how
to make a challah is a very useful skill
to have, something that will come in
handy for years to come in the life of
the boy or girl who learns how to do it.
In this egalitarian age, who says
that only girls should know how to
bake a challah? Every Jewish wife will
be delighted if she finds out that the
man she has married knows how to
and likes to bake challah.
Level three: Ask the rabbi for a list
of members of the congregation who
are in the hospital and bring them
each a challah in honor of Shabbat. If
you have ever been in the hospital, you
know that it is a lonely and a scary
experience, and it feels especially
lonely if you are there on Shabbat.
Imagine what it would mean to a
hospital patient to have someone
come in, smile and wish them well,
and leave them a loaf of challah to
enjoy in honor of Shabbat.
Even if you decide to buy instead of
to bake, consider buying a couple of
extra challot that you can deliver to
congregants who are in the hospital in
honor of the simcha.
Level four: If you have a challah,
you have to have a challah cover. Why
not assign the honor of making one to
one of your relatives or friends who
sew? They will feel honored and
delighted to be given this mitzvah.
Or you can go on the Web and find
lots of places where you can pur-
chase a challah cover and help the
poor at the same time. My favorite is
Yad Lakashish, Lifeline to the Poor,
where you can not only pick up some
beautifully crafted challah covers but
can give honor and dignity to the
elderly who make them at the same
Level five: Now it gets exciting.
What if you went to your local senior
citizen center, nursing home or assist-
ed-living center and asked if anyone
there still remembers how to sew and
knit? If they do, then offer them the
mitzvah of making the challah cover
for the simcha. You will have a special-
ly commissioned work of art for your
simcha. How many people can say
Level six: Invite the senior citizen
who has made the challah cover to the
dinner as your guest and introduce
her to everyone as the artist who
made the challah cover that is being
used at this event for the very first
If you do that, you will have two
mitzvot for the price of one: You will
have added a lovely new work of ritu-
al art to the simcha and you will have
fulfilled the mitzvah of bringing out
the radiance in the face of our elders.
And the challah cover that made its
debut at this event can become a fam-
ily treasure to be taken out again at
the engagement party, at the wedding
and, if we are fortunate, at the sim-
chah of the bar mitzvah child's own
son's bar mitzvah.
And the child will have learned
some important lessons both about
how we treat bread and about how we
treat old people.
This is just one small example of
the kind of innovative thinking that is
found on almost every single page of
Siegel's book. If even a simple challah
can provide so many different oppor-
tunities for "Mitzvah-izing," then so
can every other detail and every other
aspect of the experience.
Every detail - the invitation, the
mitzvah project, the d'var torah, the
centerpiece — is an opportunity.
No matter how small a detail it may
be, it has the power to become a
method for doing good and, if it does,
then the benefits to the bar or the bat
mitzvah child and to everyone else
who is present are very great.
There is an old joke that you have
probably heard that explains why we
need this book so much:
An exhausted parent says after his
child's simchah: "If bar mitzvah is going
to get any more expensive, I hope that
the next one runs away and becomes
bar mitzvah at a justice of the peace."
For that parent and for all those
who understand what he is saying,
this book is a precious resource. So if
you know any family that is approach-
ing these days of stress and trauma,
get them this book. ❑
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