I recently wrote a guest post for A Simple Jew about Shlisel Challah. In my research I came across many different reasons for this. (I already have enough material for next years post.) After all this, I think I finally have some idea what Shllisel Challah and other such segulas are all about. When I made and ate the challahs this year I thought about the reasons I had read about. These are a few of the thoughts I had:
1) I thought about how Hashem provides all parnasa and it comes only because He wills it. Just like he provided the mon he provides for everything. It has nothing to do with my business decisions, no matter how brilliant they seem, but only because Hashem wills it.
2) I thought about what the Yismach Yisroel says (reason #6); how the key alludes to Yiras Hashem, which we should have received from the matzos on Pesach. I thought about how I need to work on my Yiras Hashem so that the Torah will stay attached to me.
3) I thought about the word מפתח, key, representing the Rambam’s 8 mitzvos of Chometz U’Matza(reason #7) and how those mitzvos that separate us from chometz teach us that we need to separate from the real chometz, the yetzer hara, all year round.
4) I thought about conquering the yetzer hara with the yetzer tov and trying to use the days of sefira to work on my Avodas Hashem. (reasons 3& 9)
Those are just a few of the thought I had this past Shabbos; a full blown Mussar schmooze about emunah, bitachon and Avodas Hashem, from challah. Now, is that anything a religious Jew should make fun of?
That, I feel, is at least part of what tzadikim had in mind when they spoke about Shlisel Challah. It’s like hanging up a note in front of you as a reminder to work on bitachon, Yiras Shomayim and so on. Would anyone Rov object to someone leaving reminders for himself to work on himself? Coming out of Pesach, which is all about emunah, tzadikim wanted us to continue to work on our emunah and bitachon after Pesach. They wanted to remind us, just like a post-it note, of the things we need to work on. Instead of a post-it, we make the challahs differently as our reminder. I am not telling everyone that they need to make shlissel challah, but, even if it is not ones custom, is it not beneficial to make shlisel challah if it will do this for you?
If, however, one laughs and makes fun of a segula and says: “I’ll do it anyway - it can’t hurt”, then, perhaps, that is no different than a good luck charm, such as a rabbit’s foot, which is forbidden (besides the aveira of making fun of tzadikim and Minhag Yisroel). For those that do it without the knowledge of what it’s all about (though ideally they should learn the reasons), but don’t make fun of it and believe that the tzadikim had reasons for this, then through their emunas chachomim they can rely on the segula.
These are just some of my thoughts from this past Shabbos, which I learnt from some challah. Instead of sitting down to some challah like any other Shabbos, I sat there and thought: “Why are these challos different?” And I reminded myself again of all the important lessons of the shlisel challah. In every part of our lives we need reminders of how to work on ourselves and serve Hashem.