On Wednesday evening, May 1, the Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) at the Yeshiva of Central Queens organized a Shlissel Challah Bake. Many people have the minhag to bake a shlissel-key challah for the first Shabbos following Pesach. The idea is to make a key-shaped challah or place a key inside the challah prior to baking. The “key” symbolizes that our parnasah, our livelihood, is in Hashem’s hands, and we should daven that Hashem will shower us with abundance.

The moments during the kneading and recitation of the blessing are considered favorable times for davening to Hashem. Some believe that it is a s’gulah to bake challah with 40 women as a r’fuah sh’leimah for someone who is ill. This extra spiritual component is the impetus for challah-baking events around the world.

At the PTO event during the week between the end days of Pesach and the next Shabbos, a crowd of 200 gathered together to partake in this meaningful mitzvah. For many, it was the first time they would be baking challah; and for others, it would be the first time they would be making the Hafrashas Challah blessing. Renowned spiritual and motivational speaker Charlene Aminoff of Great Neck, New York, told her story of how challah brought her closer to Hashem and her Yiddishkeit. She discussed why she began baking challah and the miracles that followed, as well as the meaning it still has in her life, “Since I first made the commitment to bake challah for Shabbos, I have not missed a week. If I am unable to bake it, I am on the phone with my rebbetzin while she bakes, and we make the brachah together.”

When the challah dough was complete, she taught the participants ways to braid it, including making a challah in the shape of a key – shlissel challah. Then, in a meaningful moment, the entire room in unison made the Hafrashas Challah brachah, bringing a spiritual feeling of unity and understanding. Over the years, Mrs. Aminoff’s words have inspired thousands; and on this night, for those in attendance at the YCQ-PTO event, her words gave inspiration and a connectedness to Hashem, their yeshivah, and to klal Yisrael. For those in attendance, this night was truly different from all other nights.

Hours of work and organization by the PTO committee – Julie Faska, Daniella Gemal, Keren Birnbaum, Daniella Dykman, Valerie Olsen, and Rachel Andron- Stern – was put into making this event an experience to remember and to encourage others to continue baking challah and davening to Hashem with kavanah. A special hakaras ha’tov Aron’s Kissena Farms for donating the supplies and to Chazaq for their help with promoting the event.