Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Hashem's Eternal Bond to Us

Haftorat Bamidbar 
Hoshea 2:1-22
Printable Version
This Haftorah is one of my favorites. It describes Hashem's faithful love to the Jewish people, and how we are betrothed to Him. No matter how far we stray, Hashem's eternal bond to us will never be severed. It also alludes to many secrets regarding the evolving role of the woman.
The Connection between the Haftorah and the Torah Reading
In order to prepare us for receiving the Torah, Hashem led us through the desolate wilderness to wipe our slate clean from any residue of the impurity absorbed during the Egyptian exile. Extended living in nature, especially in the desolate midbar enables deep spiritual transformation in the heart of the children of Israel. The correct English translation of Bemidbar is "in the desert." This word is moreover related to the word for speech "dibur." From this we learn that the desert speaks (hamidbar medaber). I once experienced the silent voice of the wilderness when I joined Midreshet B'erot Bat Ayin's annual moonlit desert hike. It was a total transformative experience to be away from all the glitter of establishment. No stores, no houses, no buildings, not even a tree – just sand and endless mountains are all you see. When sitting and meditating alone in the desert, you can feel how all the exterior layers of your identity evaporate, as you get in touch with the core – the spark of G-d – infused within your soul. Just as the desert cleansed Israel of any foreign influence in preparation for receiving the Torah, so does our haftorah describe how Hashem brought us to the desert to help us do teshuva (repent) from the negative influence absorbed during exile. The haftorah compares the Jewish people to a married woman who went astray after foreign men. Hashem (her husband) promises to bring her to the desert, in order to renew his relationship with her. "I will visit upon her the days of the ba'alim, to whom she burnt incense, and she adorned herself with her earrings and her jewelry, and went after her lovers, and she forgot Me, says Hashem. Therefore, behold I will allure her and lead her into the desert, and I will speak comfortingly to her heart" (Hoshea 2:15-16). Specifically in the desert, will Hashem speak to our heart. For in the desert, we can peal off our exterior layers of attachments to the material – the "earrings, jewelry, lovers etc." Then we can open ourselves to hear the comforting voice of Hashem, whispering through the silent wilderness, to return to Him with a complete heart.
Equality between Husband and Wife Reflects the Ultimate Rectified Relationship with G-d
The Hebrew word for husband ba'al literally means "master." This reflects the subservient role of women throughout the times, when they were dependent on their husbands for their very existence. I truly do advocate the importance for the wife to respect and look up to her husband. Yet, on the other hand, if the husband is her master, something in the relationship between them is missing. Through the relationship of servant/master, husband and wife are unable to relate to each other in the very highest way, as a servant cannot fully unite with her master. When he is above her and she doesn't reach the crown of his head, their relationship is not completely matching. For example, if only the husband learns Torah, but the wife never learns, because she is completely overwhelmed by her domestic duties, then it may be difficult for them to conduct a conversation that will be equally meaningful for both. It is not only the woman who feels the lack, but the husband, as well, will find greater marital satisfaction with a wife who has become his complete equal, with whom he can share his deepest inner Torah thoughts.
Her Husband Will No Longer be Her Master
In this week's haftorah, there is an allusion to the changing relationship between husband and wife, from that of servant and master to that of two equal partners. This reflects the evolving relationship between the Jewish people and Hashem, as the husband and wife relationship is a metaphor for the relationship between Hashem and the Jewish people. Only when the light of the woman completely matches that of her husband, will the Shechinah – the Divine feminine indwelling presence – permeate Israel completely without any partition. At that time Israel will no longer call Hashem ba'al, as Hoshea prophesies, "It shall come to pass on that day, says Hashem, you shall call Me Ishi, [my man] and you shall no longer call Me Ba'ali. And I will remove the names of the ba'alim (idols) from her mouth, and they shall no longer be mentioned by their name" (Hoshea 2:18-19). The word ba'al was also the name of the idol whose service was widespread in Israel. Therefore, relating to Hashem as the ba'al, carries the association of idol-worship, as we see in the abovementioned verse: Refraining from calling Hashem Ba'al is followed by removing "the names of the idols". There are many levels of Divine service and relating to Hashem as the master is far from the highest. It is worship out of fear rather than from pure love. Hoshea prophesies about the future time, when we will rise to the highest level of serving Hashem with a complete purified heart. At that time, we will no longer call Hashem our master, because we have merged to become one with Him, in the same way that the wife will no longer call her husband her master as they will become unified as one. At the time of geulah, we will become purified from base desires to become a complete vessel filled with Hashem's essence. There will no longer be any place within us that separates between us and Hashem. We will become the glove for Hashem's hand to perfectly fit. 
Matrimony between Hashem and Israel
Shavuot commemorates the highest transcending moment of Jewish history – the wedding between the Jewish people and Hashem. The Tablets of the Torah were the Ketubah (marriage contract), and the mountain on top of their head was the chupah (marriage canopy). This is alluded to in the verse that describes the giving of the Torah: "He gave unto Moshe, when he finished (kekaloto) speaking with him upon Mount Sinai, two tablets of testimony, tables of stone, written with the finger of G-d" (Shemot 31:18). Rashi notes the connection between the word "kekaloto" and the Hebrew word for bride, "kalah." "The word "kekaloto" is written without the vav [so it could be read "kekalato" – as his bride] to intimate that the Torah was handed over to Moshe as a gift just as a bride is handed over to the bridegroom" (Rashi ibid. See also Rashi, Shemot 34:1 where he compares the Tablets of the Torah to a marriage contract, and Babylonian Talmud, Ta'anit 26b). Just as on a king's wedding day, he distributes gifts to whoever asks, on Shavuot, we, too, can come to the King, Almighty, and request from Him the blessing of Shavuot. I have heard that especially as the sun rises on Shavuot, the sky is completely open for any request, particularly if related to Torah. Just as the bride and the groom make a commitment to one another on their wedding day, so, too, on Shavuot do the Jewish people and Hashem commit to one another through an oath, as expressed in the concluding verse of our haftorah: "I will betroth you to Me forever, and I will betroth you to Me with righteousness and with justice and with loving-kindness and with mercy. And I will betroth you to Me with faith, and you shall know Hashem" (Hoshea 2:22).

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Intensive Summer Emunah Healing Workshop

Emunah Healing Workshop (Jewish Energy Healing)
With Rebbetzin Chana Bracha Siegelbaum

Intensive Summer Course
Five 2-hour Workshops, June 19-July-21
Envision Reaching Your Full Potential
Mend Challenging Relationships                                  
Unravel Negative Thought Patterns  
Nurture Your Inner Child  
Actualize Your Goals & Clear Spiritual Blocks
Heal Childhood Wounds                                       
  
Learn practical healing tools through strengthening your emunah and connecting with Hashem’s light inherent in your own neshamah. Learn to let go and allow Hashem to act in your place, in order to engender healing and wellbeing. The workshops include:
·         Clarification of how Emunah Healing works
·         Torah sources on spiritual healing
·         Learning to open the spiritual channels, mastering the Basic Prayer based on Derech Hashem by the Ramchal used in Emunah Healing
·         Guided meditations (visualizations) connecting you to the light of Hashem
·         Spiritual healing exercises such as energy balls technique to remove spiritual blockages, and clearing the energy in a room or of an object by means of prayer formula.
·         Techniques for indentifying underlying spiritual blockages
·         Techniques for couple therapy through Emunah Healing
·         Practice in the emunah-way of removing spiritual blockages through tefilah and energy work.

The Emunah Healing Course
will take place in Bat Ayin
Monday Evenings from 7:30-9:30
and Thursday Mornings from 10:30-12:30
Preregistration required NIS 50 discount for those who register now!
For more information and registration
contact Chana Bracha Siegelbaum
02-993-2642

What is Emunah Healing?
Emunah Healing is the Torah way to heal ourselves and others by accessing Hashem’s healing light within us. In Hebrew the word for creation – בריאה, and for health – בריאות share the same root – ברא. The state of our health depends on the extent to which we allow Hashem to recreate us every moment. Therefore, the key to health is removing exterior layers, the klipot which block Hashem’s life-giving energy from flowing freely within all the parts of our psyche, emotions, and organs. Emunah Healing is method that facilitates us to identify and remove these klipot by unblocking negative energy and infusing each part of ourselves and the people we treat with Hashem’s light through tefilah and energy work. Not everyone is destined to treat others, yet everyone can learn to heal themselves and their family. In addition, Emunah Healing promotes spiritual growth and closeness to Hashem.

How do I know it is kosher?
Many religious Jews who have had experience with energy healing are concerned that these systems are not based on Torah, and therefore, they may not be spiritually pure. Ilan and Sandy Feldman of Ramat Beit Shemesh decided to purify alternative energy healing from its non-Jewish elements and create a Torah/Emunah based system of energy healing, channeling Hashem’s life-giving power. This system of spiritual healing is endorsed by Rabbi Berkowitz of Aish HaTorah. Rebbetzin Chana Bracha, endorsed by the Biala Rebbe, Rabbi Ben Zion Rabinowicz of Biala-Lugano and Rabbi Lazer Brody has been trained in Emunah Healing by Chana Luke who is endorsed by Rabbi Ezra Sheinberg of Tzefat. Rebbetzin Neustadt the daughter of Rabbi Ezrial Tauber, said about Emunah Healing, “This is the healing of the Geulah!”

Who is Rebbetzin Chana Bracha Siegelbaum
Rebbetzin Chana Bracha Siegelbaum, a native of Denmark, is Founder and Director of Midreshet B’erot Bat Ayin: Holistic Torah Study for Women on the Land. She holds a Bachelor of Education in Bible and Jewish Philosophy from Michlala Jerusalem College for Women, and a Masters of Art in Jewish History from Touro College. Rebbetzin Chana Bracha began her practice of spiritual healing, spring 2010, after having studied and apprenticed with Chana Luke for almost 10 years. For more than two decades Rebbetzin Chana Bracha has practiced spiritual counseling to women of all ages in Israel and the United States. She creates curricula emphasizing women's spiritual empowerment through traditional Torah values. In 2010 Rebbetzin Siegelbaum published her first book, Women at the Crossroads: A Woman's Perspective on the Weekly Torah Portion which was reviewed in the Jerusalem Post and various other publications and has sold worldwide. She has a married son and several granddaughters, and lives with her husband and younger son on the Land of the Judean hills. Beyond being a Torah scholar, Rebbetzin Chana Bracha is a strong female role model for many women. 

The Fires of Lag B'Omer


Lag b'Omer is one of these hidden holidays which we celebrate "big time" in Bat Ayin. In addition to the big communal fire for the entire community, almost each family has their own bonfire. When I invited a couple of our friends over to share the light of our Bonfire, one woman responded: "Sorry, we can't come, because we have a big pile of wood clippings to burn. We want to use the night of Lag b'Omer to burn it all up." So I'm asking you, is the purpose of the bon-fires on Lag b'Omer mainly to consume all the accumulated garden waste? Or is there a deeper reason behind lighting fires on this holy day? What is the best way to take advantage of the energy of Lag b'Omer? I look forward to reading your comments!

Lag b'Omer – A Holiday Shrouded in Mystery
Lag b'Omer is an exciting and mysterious holiday. We light bonfires, play music, celebrate weddings, and some shoot arrows. All this takes place during the semi-mourning period when we do not hold weddings, play dance-music, cut hair, or shave. What is the underlying significance hiding behind this obscure holiday? Lag b'Omer celebrates the anniversary of the passing of the renowned Mishnaic sage and foremost Kabbalist, Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai. His teachings comprise the text of the Zohar the primary book of the Kabbalah. We don't have any other holiday of this caliber which celebrates the passing of a Jewish sage. Why do we celebrate the passing of one of the greatest sages in Jewish history with so much joy?

The Successor of Rabbi Akiva Entering the Orchad of Kabbalah
Lag b'Omer, which literally means the thirty third day of the Omer, commemorates two events. On the thirty-third day of the Omer, there was an interruption or end of the plague that killed twenty two thousand students of Rabbi Akiva. The Talmud relates that subsequently Rabbi Akiva moved to the south of Israel, where Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai became one of the five students, who then carried Rabbi Akiva's teachings into the future. He later died on the same thirty-third day of the Omer. On his deathbed, he expressed his personal wishes that his yahrtzeit (anniversary of death) be celebrated with great joy. Rabbi Akiva was the greatest Kabbalist of his time. He is the only one of four Rabbis who entered the Pardes (An acronym for the four levels of Torah including the secret mystical level of Kabbalah). Whereas the other Rabbis were injured either physically or spiritually, Rabbi Akiva was the only one who entered and returned in peace (Babylonian Talmud, Chagiga 14b). The mystical tradition that Rabbi Akiva carried with him was passed down to Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai and revealed in the Zohar.

Lag b'Omer's Kabbalistic Transmission – Rectification for Rabbi Akiva's Students
Rabbi Avraham Trugman explains how Lag b'Omer celebrates the survival of the Kabbalah. When Rabbi Shimon and his son were hiding from the Romans in the cave, Rabbi Shimon summoned Eliyahu the prophet by a specific formula that he had learned from Rabbi Akiva. This is how it came about that Eliyahu taught them the holy Zohar. There is a tradition in the writings of the Chida (Rabbi Chaim David Azulai), that Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai received the sacred traditions of the Kabbalah from Rabbi Akiva specifically on Lag B'Omer. The knowledge of Kabbalah needed to be transmitted during the Jewish month of Iyar, called the month of Ziv (splendor), because at this time the land of Israel is glowing with holiness, as the fruits are maturing on the trees and the flowers are blossoming. Since the knowledge of Kabbalah is the holiest teaching, the greatest obstacles deter it from being passed on and revealed in the world. This is the underlying cause of the dispute between the students of Rabbi Akiva and their death during the Omer period. However, Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai brought about the rectification, by enlightening his students with the secret of Kabbalah that he had received from Rabbi Akiva. The zenith of this Kabbalistic revelation took place on the day when Rabbi Shimon's soul rose to heaven. Therefore, we celebrate on the day of his passing, how Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai became the most important link in the chain of Kabbalistic succession.

Bonfires
Since "the Torah is light" (Mishlei 6:23), we can understand the main custom of Lag b'Omer to light the bonfire. The fires of Lag b'Omer represent the light of the inner dimensions of the Torah as well as the deepest longing of our soul to be close to G-d and to understand the spiritual, mystical depths of the Torah. The bonfires also connect us back to Rabbi Akiva, who was tortured to death. He transformed his burning pain into sacrificing his life with the fiery love of Hashem. Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai carried on Rabbi Akiva's ability to transform the fires of torture to the fire of love of G-d. This incredible light became engraved in the holy Zohar. Rav Yitzchak Ginsburgh reveals that the two letters of "Lag," 33, when inverted, spell "Gal," which means to reveal/open, as in the verse "Open [Gal] my eyes that I may see wonders in Your Torah" (Tehillim 119:18). Lag b'Omer represents the fire of Torah that gives us the inner vision to grasp the wonders of the Torah, thereby illuminating the long night of exile. With Hashem's help, Israel will be redeemed in the future through the merit of learning the Zohar. In order to overcome the darkness all around us, on a personal, national and universal level, we need to go beyond the superficial learning and observance of Torah, and reveal deeper and more spiritual levels that will bring light to ourselves and the world

Receiving the Torah with a Good Heart
B'nei Yissascher explains that the forty nine days of counting the Omer can be broken down to the numerical value of the Hebrew "A good heart" consisting of (לב- lev- 32) and טוב)- tov- 17). (32+17=49) If you count from the first word of the Torah until the word "good" ("tov") in "Hashem saw that it was good" (Bereishit 1:3), you will find exactly thirty two words. Together the first thirty two words (לב) and the word "good" (טוב) spell out the expression "לב טוב – A good heart." Hashem commanded us to count the numerical value of "A good heart" in preparation for receiving the Torah, which embodies the quintessence of "A good heart." The Torah is the heart of the world. Therefore, it has thirty two paths of wisdom. On the first day of Creation, after creating light, the Torah states that Hashem saw that the light was good. According to the Midrash, He concealed this light in the Torah. Therefore, the Torah is the essence of good corresponding to the hidden "light that is good." This explains why Hashem commanded us to count 49 days (32+17) in order to be worthy to receive the Torah.

The Hidden Light of the Torah
Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai is called the holy candle, for through him the secrets of the Torah were revealed. This is the secret of "the light that is good" – the Ohr HaGanuz (hidden light) buried in the Torah. Just as the word "tov" in the sentence "the light that is tov/good" is the thirty third word in the Torah, so was Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai's holy light revealed on the thirty third day of counting the Omer. After having counted thirty two days of the Omer, then the "good" of the heart hidden in the Torah, is revealed. For this reason Lag B'Omer is "tov" (17) days from Shavuot. On that day Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai rose to the upper heaven, and it follows that this is also the day he was born, as Hashem always fulfills the years of the Tzaddikim (Babylonian Talmud, Rosh Hashana 11b). Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai's holy book is called the Zohar – (Splendor), which refers to "the light that is good" hidden in the Torah. His light will be preserved until the revelation of the light of Mashiach, as our sages said "G-d said, let there be light" (Bereishit 1:3) – this is the light of Mashiach (Yalkut Shimoni, Yesha'yahu 60). This explains the minhag (custom) to light candles and fires on this day, in honor of "the light that is good" which begins to sparkle on that special day of Lag b'Omer "tov" days before receiving the Torah. This is in honor of the soul of Rabbi Shimon the illuminator of the Torah, and in honor of his holy book the Zohar which gives light from one end of the world to the other (B'nei Yissascher on Lag b'Omer).

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Redeeming the Land – The Extension of Our Soul

Haftorat Behar
Yirmiyahu 32:6-32:27
Printable Version

I'm writing this as I mourn together with my people the spilled blood of our holy soldiers for the sake of redeeming the Land of Israel from the hand of the other nations. This fits with the theme of the Torah reading and its haftorah which is about redeeming the land. In my commentary, I attempt to explain why it is so important that each one's particular land stays within the family, and what this principle teaches us about the relationship of the Jewish people with the Land of Israel.

Purchasing Land in Eretz Yisrael with Emuna
This week's haftorah highlights our eternal relationship with Eretz Yisrael – our homeland. The Jewish people are be encouraged to purchase land in the Land of Israel and continue to build even in the midst of difficulties, obstacles and building freezes. Although the exile from Eretz Yisrael was imminent, and the Jewish people were about to leave the "Palace of the King", Hashem instructed Yirmeyahu to buy land as an eternal lesson that Israel's bond with its Land can never be permanently severed. With the purchase of land in Eretz Yisrael, Yirmiyahu demonstrated his complete emuna in the return of the Jewish people. There is never any reason to despair and break our eternal ties with the land. Even though Judea is suffering under siege, "Houses, fields, and vineyards shall again be purchased in this land" (Yirmiyahu 32:15). By spending a substantial sum of money for a purchase from which Yirmiyahu will not be able to personally benefit, he taught us that the Jewish people are never disconnected from the Land of Israel. We truly belong to Eretz Yisrael and this land will always belong to us.

The Connection between the Haftorah and the Torah reading
Yirmiyahu's purchase of his cousin Chanamel's field is called redemption."Behold, Chanamel, the son of Shallum your uncle, is coming to you, saying: Buy for yourself my field that is in Anathoth, for the right of redemption is yours to buy it" (Ibid. 7). This redemption which entails ensuring that the land stays within the family echoes one of the main themes of this week's Torah portion, B'Har: "If your kinsmen becomes poor and has to sell part of his land, his closest relative shall come and redeem what his kinsman has sold" (Vayikra 25:25). It is a mitzvah to redeem the land so that it remains within the family.

Redeeming the Land – The Extension of Our Soul
Until we obtained our own portion of land, in the Land of Israel, I never understood why the Torah emphasizes the mitzvah of keeping each plot of land within the family. I also didn't understand why it is called "redemption." While exerting the effort required to transform our plot from rocks and thistles into a lovely orchard garden, a prayer and vision of the grandchildren of my grandchildren often comes to mind. Who, after seventy years, will one day pick carobs from our land? Who will play on the swings, climb the apple trees, pick juicy figs, and make homemade grape-juice after we will be gone? Every year, as we deepen our imprint on the land which has become an extension of ourselves, my hope and prayer, that our own children will continue where we leave off, intensifies. Just as a person's body is a vessel for his soul, so is the land in Eretz Yisrael the vessel for the Jewish body – a vessel to the vessel of the soul. True redemption is when we are able to express our soul in all of its layers including the particular land which is the manifestation of our particular souls. This is why Megillat Ruth emphasizes "to raise up the name of the dead upon his inheritance" (Megillat Ruth 4:5). It is not enough to elevate Ruth's deceased husband's name by means of marrying his closest living relative, and siring offspring in his name. His soul elevation must take place on his particular land – the extension of his soul.


The Spiritual Effect on each Jew of Keeping all of Eretz Yisrael in Jewish Hands
Also on a national level, redeeming the entire Land of Israel manifests the communal soul of our people. Only when the Land of Israel was redeemed by her people, after eighteen hundred eighty four years of exile, did the spirit of Israel become revived, expressed in the revival of the many Yeshivot from Mir to Slobodka. In addition to and increase in Torah learning, also Jewish art, music, science and healing received a renaissance in the wake of the establishment of the Jewish state. This is why giving away any part of the Land, is tantamount to causing sickness to the communal soul of Israel. Any part of Eretz Yisrael which is not in Jewish hands, prevents our people from manifesting their soul to it fullest. Not only the evictees of Gush Katif (Gaza) suffered a horrible trauma. The expulsion had a traumatic effect on the entire Jewish people; even those Jews who commanded it, as well as those who carried out their orders. Giving away land from Eretz Yisrael has a negative effect on the life of every Jew, no matter where he or she lives. This is why preventing to relinquish any land within Eretz Yisrael is so vital for the spiritual health of our entire people.

The Land of Israel Gathers the Jewish Souls together and Purifies the Impure
On the other hand, the fact that we have a Jewish State influences even the Jews in the furthest exile. Rabbi Teichtal explains the meaning of the obscure prophetic verse: "Hashem who gathers the outcast of Israel says, Yet will I gather others to him, beside those of him that are already gathered" (Yeshauyahu 56:8). "Gathering Israel in Jerusalem and the Land of Israel, they will become a general center for all Israel. Even those who remain in exile… will be connected in their souls to the general center established in the Land of Israel, to the extent that it will unify them even in galut. Therefore, their dispersion will not be called a complete dispersion, for they will all be connected together to the center in the Land of Israel… Even the individuals who remain in exile will not be hefker without anyone responsible for them. Whoever wants to harm us will know that there will be someone to demand of him law and judgment for his deeds… (Em Habanim Semecha p. 95). Perhaps this is why at the end of our haftorah the Land of Israel is called, "A land flowing with milk and honey" (Yirmiyahu 32:22). Milk which is produced from the blood, and honey produced by the bees are the only two kosher substances that are derived from non-kosher sources (i.e., bees and blood of animals are not kosher). This implies that the Land of Israel has the spiritual energy to purify even the impure. The Land of Israel purifies and heals the Jewish people from all of the impurities of our exile and allows our communal soul to manifest and flow freely like milk and honey. No wonder we read this haftorah close to Yom Ha'atzmaut – the week we celebrate the physical redemption of the Land of Israel.

Friday, May 6, 2011

The Power of Challah

Haftorat Parashat Emor
Yechezkiel
44:15-31

Printable Version

The Haftorah's Connection to the Parashah
In this week's haftorah, Yechezkiel prophesies about the various laws pertaining to the kohanim (priests). This corresponds to Parashat Emor, where Moshe explains the rules of the kohanim. These parallel teachings emphasize the idea of continuity from the time of the Torah to the later prophets. Yechezkiel gives us a glimpse of the status of the kohanim who will serve during the messianic era, in the third Temple, may it be built soon! The prophet explains the role of the kohanim as teachers and spiritual leaders. They do not receive a portion in the Land of Israel, but instead are nourished by the sacrifices and various tithes. The kohanim must wear special garments, and are commanded to keep their hair cut neatly. They have special purity requirements, which preclude them from coming in contact with a corpse, unless it is the body of a member of their immediate family. They are prohibited from marrying women who are divorced or widowed (unless the widow was originally married to a Kohen), and they may not drink wine prior to, or during their service.

Upgrading Holiness
A careful reading of the haftorah reveals that the regulations of the ordinary kohen are similar to the status of the kohen gadol described in the parashah. This is because all existence will be elevated during the period of redemption. For example Verse 44:22 in the haftorah prohibits the ordinary kohen from marrying a widow, unless she is the widow of a kohen. The parashah permits all widows as marriage partners for the ordinary kohen, reserving that prohibition for the Kohen Gadol alone. Just as in the time of Mashiach the holiness of the kohanim will be upgraded, so will the status of the Jewish people be raised as Rambam explains, "…there will be no jealousy or quarreling.... the preoccupation of all will be 'to know Hashem'...the Jewish people will be great scholars who will understand Hashem to maximum human capacity." (Rambam, Hilchot Melachim 12:5). Together with every sector of reality, the status of women will also be elevated then, when the light of the moon will grow full to reflect the light of the sun (Yesha'yahu 30:26).

Rectification for the First Woman by Separating Challah
Hashem gave women the opportunity to grow in holiness and blessing through baking bread and setting aside the challah offering for the Kohen:

ספר יחזקאל פרק מד:ל ...וְרֵאשִׁית עֲרִסוֹתֵיכֶם תִּתְּנוּ לַכֹּהֵן לְהָנִיחַ בְּרָכָה אֶל בֵּיתֶךָ:
... "You shall also give to the Kohen the first of your dough, that he may cause a blessing to rest on your home" (Yechezkiel 44:30).

From this verse, the Zohar learns that a person who dwells without a wife dwells without a blessing (Zohar Chadash, Parashat Chukat, the Song of the Well). The Talmud states, "One should be dedicated to separating challah, and remind his wife about this mitzvah on the eve of Shabbat, for it is one of the great rectifications for the sin of the first woman. She extinguished the light of the first man and caused death to him, who was the challah of the world. Therefore, she was given the mitzvah of lighting the Shabbat candles and offering the challah to the kohen" (Talmud Yerushalmi Shabbat 20a). Although challah is taken any time there is a sufficient amount of dough, separating challah is mainly performed on the eve of Shabbat, since the sin took place on the eve of Shabbat, and rectifications are best enacted during the time-frame of the original wrongdoing.

Prayer for Rectifying Chava's Sin Following the Mitzvah of Challah
After the blessing of the challah, it is good to recite the following prayer:

יהי רצון מלפניך ה' אלוקי ואלוקי אבותי שבכח סגולת הפרשת חלה יתוקן עון אם כל חי, חוה, שהביאה מיתה על אדם הראשון שהיה חלתו של עולם. ובכן בכח סגולת זכות מצות הפרשת חלה, "בלע המות לנצח ומחה ה' אלקים דמעה מעל כל פנים" ולהניח ברכה אל בתינו. יהי רצון שתבורך עיסתנו על ידינו כמו ששרתה ברכה על ידי שרה ורבקה רחל ולאה אמותינו, יקויים בנו מקרא שכתוב ראשית עריסותיכם תתנו לכהן להניח ברכה אל ביתך.
"May it be Your will Hashem, my G-d and the G-d of my fathers, that through the spiritual power of separating challah, the sin of Chava, the Mother of All Life, will be rectified. She brought mortality to Adam who was the challah of the world. Likewise, through the spiritual power and merit of the mitzvah of separating challah, "May death be swallowed up forever, and Hashem wipe away the tears from off all faces," "and cause a blessing to rest on our home." May it be Your will that our dough will be blessed through us like the blessing that dwelled through Sarah, Rivkah, Rachel and Leah, our Mothers. May it be established through the Scriptural verse ..."You shall also give to the Kohen the first of your dough that he may cause a blessing to rest on your home" (Yechezkiel 44:30), (Chemdat Yamim, Shabbat Kodesh, Chapter 2).

The Unification of Flour into Challah Rectifies Israel's Lack of Unity
When we offer up the first of our challah-dough to Hashem, the rest of our bread becomes as if left over from our offering, which is the Holiest of Holy. We are sustained not only by the physical bread, but rather by the holiness which Hashem's puts in our food. "Humanity does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes out of the mouth of Hashem, does humanity live" (Devarim 8:3). The reason why the challah gift to the kohen causes the blessing to dwell is because it causes more holiness of Hashem's mouth to reside within our food. This extra holiness in the food strengthens our heart and helps us to do teshuva. When we bake bread, all the scattered flour becomes unified into one lump. Separating the first of our dough as a gift to the kohen, is therefore, a rectification for the lack of unity among the Jewish people. This explains why the gift of "the first of your dough… causes a blessing to rest on your home". For the blessing is enacted by means of unity. One of my Shabbat guests, Bracha Lappen, shared with us that she began to connect with her Hebrew name, only after she had learned that the word bracha (blessing) shares the root of the Hebrew word for "knee" (berech), which means connection. Therefore, taking challah connects us to one another, and brings blessings to our home and the entire world by rectifying senseless hatred and schism between us (Shem m'Shemuel, Parashat Korach, year 5674, Parashat Shelach, year 5677, and 5672).

Please share your thoughts and experiences in bringing more holiness into our food!