Daf Yomi Bava Kama 82
Ask anyone who has tasted the Rabbanit’s Challah, and they will tell you that it’s the most delicious they’ve ever savoured. But it wasn’t always like that. For years, Batya didn’t have much success. She tried this recipe and that recipe, but all to no avail. Eventually she came up with a fabulous bobomayse: the sea level pressure in Edmonton combined with the dryness of the air were simply poor ingredients for bread-making.
That was her story and she was sticking to it. Until one day, she decided to give it another shot. What prompted her renewed effort was the sorry state of affairs at our weekly shul shaleshudos (afternoon Shabbos meal). You see, the challah was always stale, and the new trend was for people to leave shul and go home for the meal. Unfortunately, that often meant that they didn’t return for Maariv (evening service).
Rabbanit to the rescue. Determined to ensure we had a stable Maariv minyan, she set out afresh to bake challah, both for the house and the shul. Lo and behold – admittedly along with a new and improved recipe – the challah turned out exceptional! And that is the (okay, maybe a little dramatized!) story of the Rabbanit’s Challah!
Ezra the Scribe enacted ten ordinances. The sixth: He instituted that a woman should get up early to bake bread.
Why? So that the bread would be ready for the poor.
Rashi explains: On days that she is baking, she should start early enough in the day to ensure the bread is ready in time for the paupers who come to the door.
Most people go through life only thinking about themselves. I’m hungry, so let me bake some bread. It doesn’t make you selfish – chances are you’re also baking for your spouse and kids. Maybe even your parents. But what about others beyond your personal ‘daled amos’ (private sphere)?
Ezra’s question to his new countrymen was, how much effort would it take to throw in an extra couple of cups of flour for the needy? He knew that if he wanted to build a great country, he had to begin by building a great society. And so his message to the matriarch baking for her family was, how about you get up a couple of hours earlier, throw in those extra cups of flour, and be able to have fresh bread ready when the beggar comes to your door? Suddenly you are serving society with relatively little additional effort!
Let me tell you about one family I know that excels in this regard. Rabbi Moshe and Rebbetzin Miriam White of the Edmonton Kollel have (kene hora) a sizable family. And so each week, the rebbetzin bakes up a storm for Shabbos. But she doesn’t stop there. She says to herself: If I’m already baking, let me throw in another bag or two of flour (not just a cup or two!) for people who might not otherwise have Shabbos. And with that, she bakes another dozen loaves and delivers them to the Israeli kioskniks at West Edmonton Mall!
You might not have the dedication of a Miriam White, but there are always little ways that you can benefit others once you’re already in the zone. You’re already out shopping. Would it break the bank if you threw an extra can of beans into your shopping cart to deposit into the food bank bin at the front of the supermarket? You’re on the way to a simcha (celebration) – who can you think of that might need a ride? You’re taking your kid to a birthday party – which of their friends would appreciate a ride? Don’t wait for them to call you; you’re going anyway, pick up the phone and offer to pick them up!
Most mitzvah opportunities don’t cost a cent. All it takes is a little thought beyond your immediate daled amos. May you always think of others and the abundant opportunities you have to build a G-dly society on Earth!