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The Torah portion of Masei details the journeys of Bnei Yisrael in the desert. In this article I would like to discuss one specific stop on the way – Alush.

According to the Ba’al HaTurim on the verse, “And they departed from Dofka and they camped in Alush” (Bamidbar 33:13), it was in Alush where Hashem first gave Bnei Yisrael the mon. The Ramban also gives a similar commentary (on the verse in Shemot 17:1). Both base their opinion on a Midrash (Breishit Rabba 48:12) about Avraham telling Sarah to knead dough to make matzos for the angels (“Lushi Va’asi Ugot,Breishit 18:6)).


The question is: “Was Sarah the first in the Torah to knead dough?” It would seem from the Midrash above that she was. Sarah is indeed associated with the first time the word “knead” is mentioned in the Torah, but it is not the first time kneading took place.

Although it is not categorically mentioned in the text, the Midrash (Shemot Rabba 30:13) says that Hashem created the earth like a baker kneads dough and from this “dough” Hashem took hafrashat challah, which was Adam HaRishon. Sefer Meir Panim says that Adam HaRishon himself was created in the same way that a baker kneads dough. The verse (Breishit 2:7) says that Hashem created Adam using dust from the earth into which He breathed a living neshama, a soul. According to Meir Panim, Hashem took a Kemitza (handful) measure of moist earth and inflated this “dough,” as it were, with a neshama.

The next time we encounter kneading is under less fortunate circumstances. Although Hashem commanded Adam to procreate, Adam was not diligent in performing this mitzvah. This set into motion the series of events that resulted in the sin of the Eitz Ha’Daat, the Tree of Knowledge. According to Meir Panim, the serpent duped Chava into thinking she could facilitate procreation on her own, without Adam’s (or Hashem’s) help, by taking the fruit of this tree (wheat), grinding it into flour, mixing it with water (exactly as Hashem created Adam) and inflating it – not with a neshama but with chametz (by leaving the dough to rest). Since her sin was tinkering and interfering with the birth process, Chava was subsequently given a birth-related punishment. However, it didn’t end there. Chava then tempted Adam to eat from the same forbidden “chametz bread” and in doing so destroyed the (hafrashat) challah of the world (Adam).

Following expulsion from Gan Eden, mankind had to remedy this sin and a component of this is the mitzvah to take hafrashat challah from bread dough. Although men are also obligated to do so, this mitzvah is primarily incumbent on women and they are given preference in performing it. Sarah was the first woman in history to perform this mitzvah.

The process of remedying Chava’s sin was completed at Matan Torah on Mt. Sinai. Before that, however, Bnei Yisrael had to eat mon, the food of angels. The Gemara (Chagiga 12b) says that Heaven is divided into seven “layers.” The layer closest to earth is called “vilon,” curtain, because it functions like a curtain that opens and closes, heralding day and night, light and darkness. The second level is called “rakia,” sky, which contains all the planets and stars. The third level is called “shechakim,” in which there is a huge “mill” that grinds mon, a spiritual food eaten by the angels. To be able to witness Hashem’s presence on Mt. Sinai, Bnei Yisrael had to ascend to the level of angels, and they did so by eating the food of angels – mon. (There are another four levels in Heaven, but we will leave them for another time.)

Where were Bnei Yisrael given the mon? In Alush. The Hebrew word “alush” means “I will knead.” I, as in Hashem. Hashem created the world through the process of kneading. Kneading is a Divine action – it was not intended as a human action. For this reason, the halacha says that as long as dough is being kneaded it cannot become chametz. Kneading prevents the dough from becoming chametz. This is how Bnei Yisrael’s dough did not become chametz when they left Egypt, until they baked it, two days later, in Sukkot – because the dough was strapped to their belts and the constant jostling while they were walking kneaded the dough, preventing it from becoming Chametz.

If we had left it up to Hashem to do the kneading, we would still be in Gan Eden. However, mankind sinned and tried to bypass Hashem and “knead” themselves. Chava tried to interfere with Hashem’s kneading, and this resulted in chametz bread. To remedy this, Hashem said to Bnei Yisrael, “I will knead – Alush! Leave the kneading to me. I will supply you with the Heavenly mon and thus repair the sin of Chava.”

Parshat HaShavua Trivia Question: Where in the parsha do we find the derivation of the laws for kashering cooking vessels?

Answer to Last Week’s Trivia Question: What was Pinchas’s reward, “Brit Shalom” (a covenant of peace)? The Netziv of Volozhin says that the very act of taking a life, justified as it may be, does something detrimental to the human neshama and dulls the natural aversion one has for killing. This is why murderers find it easier to kill a second and a third time, etc., rachmana litzlan. By giving Pinchas “Brit Shalom,” Hashem ensured that Pinchas’s neshama was not affected in any way by his slaying of Zimri and Kozbi.


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Eliezer Meir Saidel ([email protected]) is Managing Director of research institute Machon Lechem Hapanim and owner of the Jewish Baking Center which researches and bakes traditional Jewish historical and contemporary bread. His sefer “Meir Panim” is the first book dedicated entirely to the subject of the Lechem Hapanim.