Rabbi Google?

Just remember to take the dough before it's baked!

I’ve been advised on more than one occasion to cut out white flour and sugar from my diet.  Easier said than done!  Kicking up my effort another notch, I made Challah for the first time on my own.  It came out a bit crusty on the outside and chewy on the inside, just the way I like it.

It contained no sugar and just a tiny bit of oil, so it was a bit dry.  Adding to the dryness was the fact that I used about 1/3 oat flour.

Taking a portion of Challah dough and setting it aside is one of the mitzvot to be performed only in the land of Israel, however the rabbinical authorities later instituted that the mitzvah be performed outside the Holy Land so that people living in the Diaspora would not forget it. I suppose it was easier to institute in the Diaspora that something like bikurim, setting aside first fruits from a tree, which is another example of a mitzvah only performed in Israel.

We learn to set aside challah from the verse: “You shall offer up a loaf (Challah) from the first of your dough as a gift” (Numbers 15:20). This section of bread is among the twenty-four gifts that G-d awarded to the kohanim, the priests.

But you only take it if you make a certain amount of dough, which like many other things is up for discussion.  If you use a kilogram or so of flour like I did, then you take a section of the dough and set it aside without saying a blessing, because it’s unclear that you are definitely commanded, and when following mitzvot d’rabbanan, a rabbinical decree, we rule more leniently. (True, I am in fact in the Land of Israel, but most of such mitzvot don’t actually apply until the Jews have all returned.)

How did I check this? I Googled it.  I looked at a few websites that I consider to be backed by reliable halachic authorities, and I came to the conclusion that made the most sense.

At the end of Shabbat, motzei Shabbat, began the time when Ashkenazi Jews say Selichot, a set of prayer services asking for forgiveness that lead up to Rosh Hashanah.  It’s too late to call a rabbi, and I wanted to see when would really be the best time to say these prayers, since midnight is just not an option, and going according to R. Moshe Feinstein and starting a half hour before regular prayers seems to miss the whole concept of עת רצון a time when requests are most readily accepted according to Kabbalah.  But then again, my body most readily works when I get a full night of sleep.

It’s true that I worked on my textual skills for a reason and that the thing to do would be to consult the Shulchan Aruch and the Mishnah Brurah and other codifications of halacha, but first of all, I don’t have them on hand, and second of all, it would take me until past sunrise tomorrow to figure out what it said.  It takes a long time until someone can reliably understand these sources.

I’d like to think that I consult a rabbi for the matters that what seem to me to be more significant, but I just can’t bring myself to pick up the phone every time I have a question about a mundane matter.  It’s probably not the right attitude, and following halachah is important to me, but I guess it’s an ego and laziness thing.

I’d like to say something like “In the coming year, I will study more halacha and build my textual skills,” but it’s pretty unrealistic to think that unless I take some serious time off that I would be able to really look things up myself.  I could marry a rabbi, but that’s not looking very likely either.  Is it really important to get over whatever this is and to pick up the phone?  I don’t like putting my life on hold until I get approval from someone else.

Anyways, off to bed I go.  The alarm is set for 1 a.m.


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Ilene Rosenblum is a writer and marketing professional living in Jerusalem.

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