The Kosher Mikvah
Our mikvah is a kosher mikvah open to the skies and rain and receiving purified well water fed into the mikvah via a waterfall therefore fulfilling the requirements for a kosher mikvah. It is certified kosher by Rabbi Yossie Shemtov of Tucson Chabad. The mikvah contains no chlorine, fluorine, or bromine and is purified with hydrogen peroxide. It has the traditional seven steps with seven tiles showing the seven sacred grains and fruits of Am Yisrael leading down into the water; and it is surrounded by twelve tiles with the symbols for the twelve tribes. The mikvah is in the shape of a womb as the waters of the womb are considered most sacred, and taking a mikvah is considered symbolic of this rebirth purification process. The mikvah is housed in a lovely walled Chanokhian garden with live fig, pomegranate, almond, and apple trees. It is maintained on a bi-weekly basis and may be accessed by appointment with the front desk.
Congregation Etz Chaim is home to the Tree of Life Café – a kosher kitchen serving organic, live-food, vegan meals breakfast, lunch, and dinner on weekdays and brunch and dinner on weekends. We grow much of our own produce using organic and veganic farming methods. Our café is certified kosher by Rabbi Yossie Shemtov of Tucson Chabad. Rebetzen Shanti Golds Cousens has developed a kosher, live-food, gluten-free, vegan challah, which we use on Shabbat.
3 Cups Dry Raw Oat Groats (without husks)
1 1/2 Cups Filtered Water
1/2 Cup Raw Mesquite Meal
3 tsp Himalayan Salt or Transformational Salt (or to taste)
Stevia to taste (optional)
2 tsp Combination of Sweet Spices of choice, such as Cinnamon, Cardamom, Vanilla powder, Nutmeg, Cloves, or Allspice.
2 Cups Flax Seeds, ground in a coffee grinder or high-speed blender
1 Cup Cold-Pressed Sesame Oil
To Sprout the Oat Groats
In a large bowl or sprouting jar(s), soak the oat groats in purified water for 6–8 hours. Drain soaked groats, rinse, and drain again. This can be done in a colander if you do not have a sprouting jar with a screened lid. Set aside to sprout, rinsing 3 times a day for 1–2 days. When oat groats have grown small tails they are sprouted and ready to use.
To Prepare the Bread
Combine sprouted oat groats, filtered water, salt, stevia and spices in a food-processor and process until smooth. Stir in the oil, mesquite meal, and flax seed meal. Allow to sit for at least 5 minutes in order for flax seed meal to bind the dough.
Sprinkle working surface with additional mesquite flour and cinnamon or flaxseed meal to prevent dough from sticking while forming into braided loaves. Dehydrate at 145°F for one hour. Reduce heat to 115°F an additional 5–7 hours.
The moment of separating challah is an especially propitious moment for praying for family and loved ones. You may, of course, offer a personal prayer in your own words, or you can say one of the following.
Prayers to be recited before separating challah:
יְהִי רָצוֹן מִלְּפָנֶיךָ ה’ אֱלֹהֵינוּ וֵאלֹהֵי אֲבוֹתֵינוּ שֶׁתְּבָרֵךְ עִסָּתֵנוּ כְּמוֹ שֶׁשָּׁלַחְתָּ בְּרָכָה בְּעִסּוֹת אִמּוֹתֵינוּ שָׂרָה, רִבְקָה, רָחֵל וְלֵאָה, וִיקֻיַּם בָּנוּ הַפָּסוּק: “וְרֵאשִׁית עֲרִיסוֹתֵיכֶם תִּתְּנוּ לַכֹּהֵן לְהַנִּיחַ בְּרָכָה אֶל בֵּיתֶךָ”
May it be Your will, our G-d, the G-d of our Fathers, that You bless our dough, as You blessed the dough of our Mothers, Sarah, Rivkah, Rachel and Leah. And may we be blessed as in the verse: “You shall give the first yield of your dough to the kohen to make a blessing rest upon your home.” (Ezekiel 44:30)
Some have the custom to recite the following verse twice before reciting the blessing for separating challah (Sefer Chukei HaNashim):
וִיהִי נׁעַם אֲדׁנָי אֱלֹהֵינוּ עָלֵינוּ וּמַעֲשֵׂה יָדֵינוּ כּוֹנְנָה עָלֵינוּ וּמַעֲשֵׂה יָדֵינוּ כּוֹנְנֵהוּ.
May the pleasantness of the L-rd our G-d be upon us; establish for us the work of our hands; establish the work of our hands (Psalms 90:17).
יְהִי רָצוֹן מִלְּפָנֶיךָ יְיָ אֱלֹהֵינוּ וֵאלֹהֵי אֲבוֹתֵינוּ, שֶׁהַמִּצְוָה שֶׁל הַפְרָשַׁת חַלָּה תֵּחָשֵׁב כְּאִלּוּ קִיַּמְתִּיהָ בְּכָל פְּרָטֶיהָ וְדִקְדוּקֶיהָ, וְתֵחָשֵׁב הֲרָמַת הַחַלָּה שֶׁאֲנִי מְרִימָה, כְּמוֹ הַקָּרְבָּן שֶׁהֻקְרַב עַל הַמִּזְבֵּחַ, שֶׁנִּתְקַבֵּל בְּרָצוֹן. וּכְמוֹ שֶׁלְּפָנִים הָיְתָה הַחַלָּה נְתוּנָה לַכֹּהֵן וְהָיְתָה זוֹ לְכַפָּרַת עֲוֹנוֹת, כָּךְ תִּהְיֶה לְכַפָּרָה לַעֲוֹנוֹתַי, וְאָז אֶהְיֶה כְּאִלּוּ נוֹלַדְתִּי מֵחָדָשׁ, נְקִיָּה מֵחֵטְא וְעָוֹן. וְאוּכַל לְקַיֵּם מִצְוַת שַׁבַּת קֹדֶשׁ וְהַיָּמִים הַטּוֹבִים עִם בַּעֲלִי (וִילָדֵינוּ), לִהְיוֹת נִזּוֹנִים מִקְּדֻשַּׁת הַיָּמִים הָאֵלֶּה. וּמֵהַשְׁפָּעָתָהּ שֶׁל מִצְוַת חַלָּה, יִהְיוּ יְלָדֵינוּ נִזּוֹנִים תָּמִיד מִיָּדָיו שֶׁל הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא, בְּרֹב רַחֲמָיו וַחֲסָדָיו, וּבְרֹב אַהֲבָה, וְשֶׁתִּתְקַבֵּל מִצְוַת חַלָּה כְּאִלּוּ נָתַתִּי מַעֲשֵׂר. וּכְשֵׁם שֶׁהִנְנִי מְקַיֶּמֶת מִצְוַת חַלָּה בְּכָל לֵב, כָּךְ יִתְעוֹרְרוּ רַחֲמָיו שֶׁל הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא לְשָׁמְרֵנִי מִצַּעַר וּמִמַּכְאוֹבִים כָּל הַיָּמִים, אָמֵן:
May it be Your will, our G-d, the G-d of our Fathers, that the mitzvah of separating challah be considered as if I observed every one of its details. May my raising of the challah be considered as the sacrifice that was offered on the altar, which was willingly accepted. Just as giving the challah to the kohen in the past served to atone for sins, so may it atone for my sins and I shall be like a person reborn, free of sin and transgression. May I be able to observe the holy Shabbat and Festivals with my husband (and our children), and be nourished from the holiness of these days. May the influence of the mitzvah of challah enable our children to be always nourished by the hands of the Holy One blessed be He, with His abundant mercy, loving-kindness, and great love; and the mitzvah of challah be accepted as though I have given a tithe. And now, as I am fulfilling the mitzvah of challah with all my heart, so may the compassion of the Holy One Blessed be He be aroused to keep me from sorrow and pain always, Amen.
Throughout the entire Challah making process:
Lichvod Shabbat Kodesh / Yom Tov – May all who eat from the Challah be blessed with the Beracha it contains. May it nourish their bodies to be healthy to do Mitzvot.
Sift flour – Just as I separate the good from the bad, Hashem please help me to discard the negative influences in my life and the lives of my family. Remove the Yetzer Hara (bad inclination) so that only good remains. As I feel the flour I am now partners with Hashem.
Sugar – Hashem please sweeten my judgment with mercy. Help me judge others favorably and see everything with an Ayin Tova (good eye). Help me act with love and Chesed (kindness). Bless me with a sweet life and enjoyment from relationships. Its sweetness symbolizes loving/kindness (חסד) and softness. May we always be sweet to others, develop a good eye to see the positive in everything! May Hashem forgive us and sweeten the judgment!
Salt – Salt has natural boundaries. The right amount of salt preserves and enhances; too much is unhealthy. Hashem, help me to know my limits (just like you must limit your salt intake) and to hold back, to think before I speak and act. Help me watch my Tzniut (modesty). Let me live according to the boundaries of Halacha that You have set up as guidelines for me. Hashem let me have patience, and let me be satisfied with my lot.
Yeast (Flax) – Hashem please help me to do your will with happiness and excitement. Yeast in Hebrew = Shemarim. Shemira=guard. Hashem grant me your protection and protect us from all physical and spiritual harms– from the Yetzer Hara (bad inclination), from Lashon Hara (bad speech), and from all bad things. Just as yeast rises, let me rise and get excited to fulfill my role in life. Help me to have Simcha (happiness) in my home and in my life. Please bring Refuah Shelema (speedy recovery) for all (include names of sick).
Oil (Coconut Oil) – Oil is a symbol of Beracha (blessing). All Beracha comes from Hashem, and “Birkat Hashem Hi Ta’ashir” — The blessing of Hashem will make us rich. Hashem bless me with the oil of life and all of life’s blessings, such as health, success, and wisdom. Pray for Parnassah (livelihood). Hashem please bless me to use my time productively and to learn Torah Lishma (even without reward). Shower us with blessing from your hands. Bless me to know that everything is from your hands. May we merit in the anointing of Mashiach.
Warm Water – “Ein Mayim Elah Torah” (there is no water except for the Torah). As water unifies and connects all ingredients, Hashem please help me connect to you, your Torah.