In celebration of her bat mitzva, Chaya Grossbaum of Livingston made a lot of dough — the flour and yeast kind — when, on Oct. 14, about 400 women and girls gathered at the Aidekman Family Jewish Community Campus in Whippany for her Mega Challah Bake.
At the celebration honoring the 12-year-old daughter of Rabbi Zalman and Toba Grossbaum, guests enjoyed a festive dessert buffet, including decorated with miniature hallah loaves. When they entered the main reception room, they found row upon row of long tables set with pre-measured containers holding all the necessary ingredients, including yeast, flour, oil, salt, and water. A PowerPoint presentation guided them through each step of preparation, from mixing and kneading, to rising and braiding. All the participants — in many cases, three generations of families, including Chaya with her mother and grandmother — made two hallahs. One was for their family Shabbat table, the second was for Loaves of Love, to distribute, in a specially prepared bag, to elderly people living alone, hospital patients, and others in need. A blog has been set up for people to share their “Loves of Love” stories (www.megachallahbake.com).
The event was open to women and girls age 10 and up from all segments of the Jewish community. People with special needs took part; a sign language interpreter was on hand for deaf participants. The Grossbaums run the Livingston-based Friendship Circle, which pairs teens to assist individuals with special needs and their families.
Guests also had the opportunity to take part in a “mitzva raffle” for 12 gift baskets prepared by the Grossbaums with items needed to perform mitzvot. Raffle tickets were cards filled out by guests pledging to take on a particular mitzva in tribute to the day’s honoree.
“Just to hear all the beautiful things people are doing in honor of Chaya — it’s the most amazing thing,” her mother told NJJN days after the event, after spending the weekend going through the cards, which she plans to keep in an album.
Chaya, who is a student at the Rabbinical College of America’s Cheder Lubavitch in Morristown, said she helps her mother bake hallah for their family every week and makes deliveries for “Loaves of Love.” The mitzva was perfect to mark her milestone because, she said, “it’s something girls and moms can do together” and is part of welcoming Shabbat.
“And so many people are getting hallot for Shabbat,” said Toba. “We’re just on a high. It feels like it’s not over yet.”
Guests followed the tradition of reciting a prayer for the sick along with the blessing over “taking hallah” during the preparation. “There were so many beautiful people saying a bracha and a blessing for people in need, I believe we could shake the heavens and bring the blessings down,” said Toba.
The idea of the Mega Challah Bake was inspired by Chaya’s own love for helping out with the weekly baking, her mother said.
“There is no better way to celebrate my bat mitzva than by doing actual mitzvas,” Chaya said. “Having hundreds of women and girls do a mitzva simultaneously is a very exciting and powerful moment.”
“Hopefully this will be an inspiration for others to appreciate this special milestone in a new light,” said her mother.