Hadar Bet Yaakov girls marked Parshas Chayei Sarah as an opportunity to learn about challah as an opportunity to daven and have specific t’filos (prayers) and kavanos (intentional thoughts) during the different parts of the challah-making process. Girls went to Brooklyn with principals Mrs. Friedman and Mrs. Ribowsky to visit Janet Esses, who gives “challah classes” with a unique take on the procedure that focuses more on personal t’filah than culinary skills.

“When is it a good time to pray?” Mrs. Esses asked the girls who sat around her table in her Flatbush home. Girls offered a myriad of answers that became the springboard of the afternoon’s lesson in personal prayer and bringing Hashem into our lives always. “Nothing is too small for Hashem. If we want to have a deep relationship with Hashem, we have to learn how to daven for everything,” she explained. “I always say, when I go to the store, I pray for a parking space,” she smiled. Mrs. Esses then went on to delineate the different kavanos and t’filos that we can have as we add the different ingredients to our challah dough. “Sifting is really the act of separating out good from bad; so we ask Hashem to help us remove the negative influences and the bad from our own lives and the lives of our family members.” She also outlined prayers for adding in salt, sugar, water, and eggs, and said them aloud with the girls, asking that each girl have her own personal thoughts, as well.

Throughout the class, Mrs. Esses drove home her main theme of personal prayer and implored the girls to not simply use their challah-making time as a vehicle for general or rote t’filos but that it was an opportunity to really have their own personal kavanos. She stressed that having personal kavanos throughout the challah-making process specifically, and our lives in general, was our greatest tool for creating a relationship with Hashem.

After the dough was made, Mrs. Esses had one of the students, Tziporah Gandjian, say T’hilim and recite the brachah for hafrashas challah. The girls took this as an opportunity to have cholim (sick people) in mind, and particularly Rabbi Kashani who had been elementary school principal to several Hadar Bet Yaakov students and is in need of a speedy recovery from illness.

Girls left Mrs. Janet Esses’ home inspired about challah-making as an empowering time for their own t’filos. One parent let us know that she was surprised when her daughter insisted on making the challah for that Shabbos, because previously she had never shown any interest. “I always ask her to help me, but she’s never been motivated to come on her own,” the mother explained. “I was so surprised when she told me she wanted to do the challah this week!”