G‑d deserves the best from us

The first time the mitzvah of challah is mentioned in the Torah is in this week's parsha, Shlach. "Set aside the first portion of your dough, a Challah offering … Throughout your generations, give the first of your kneading as an elevated gift to G‑d" (Numbers 15:20-21). 

During the times of the Holy Temple, one of the many gifts that the Jewish people gave to the kohen (priests) was a portion of their dough every time they baked. This gift of food is known as challah, from which the name of our Shabbat loaves is derived. Even though we do not give the challah to the kohen anymore, this tradition is still observed today in Jewish homes and kosher bakeries by setting aside a piece of dough and reciting a blessing. 

On the surface, the mitzvah of challah seems to be very simple and easy to fulfill. But we know that every mitzvah in the Torah has a unique message. Even if we never take the time to bake challah, we can still realize its underlying lesson. 

What does the challah represent? " … give the first of your kneading as an elevated gift to G‑d." The Lubavitcher Rebbe often pointed out that this refers to one of the fundamental concepts in Judaism: dedicating the first and best of our lives to G‑d. 

Giving the first to G‑d is a sign we recognize everything we receive is from above. The mitzvah of challah embodies the belief that all of our sustenance truly comes to us through G‑d's hands. And when G‑d sees that one offers his/her best to Him, in turn, He will bestow His best on this person. 

What does this mean to us in our daily lives? When we wake up in the morning, before the cup of coffee, before we read the paper, and even before getting out of bed, the first thing to be done is to recite the famous Jewish prayer Modeh Ani, thus acknowledging G‑d's presence in our life (Modeh Ani Lifanecha, I offer thanks to You, for You have mercifully returned my soul to me). 

When we move into a new home, affixing a mezuzah on the door should be first on our agenda. When planning the children's education, we must keep in mind, that the first and the best years of their lives should be dedicated to G‑d n to Jewish education. 

This Friday night, as we sit by the Shabbat table, let's listen to the story that the challah tells, and remember its message; Judaism expects from us the first and the best.