Becoming a Fertility Challah Baker
Over thirteen years ago, when I was grieving my first miscarriage, I learned about the connection between challah, prayer and fertility. It was during this time that I was encouraged to pray for others to conceive while baking challah in their honor. I was told that in praying for others, I too may have my prayers answered as well. While I did eventually have two healthy children, thank God, I never stopped baking challah and praying for others.
I came to learn that the connection between baking challah and pregnancy grew out of the idea of a segula. The word segula literally means remedy or protection but colloquially it’s viewed as an opportunity to change your luck or destiny. This concept is usually referenced in conjunction with getting married and finding a soulmate, getting pregnant, or help with parnasa (financial matters). Challah is often used in the segula process because not only do you pray over the creation but you also pray and internalize it (by eating it). Each stage of challah baking has an intention that you can apply to it.
In the more than thirteen years that have passed, hundreds of couples and individuals that I have baked for have been blessed with what the fertility community calls “take home babies.” In the beginning I baked and prayed for people that I knew. But by way of word of mouth, I have had the honor to bake for families from all over the world. I am often contacted by hopeful parents that have already tried every conceivable path to conception. The parents share the journey they have been through and together we share hopes for the journey ahead of them. Fertility treatment can feel very isolating and often people suffer alone. More important than the challah itself are the stories of hope.
When I am contacted by an individual or couple, I have stories abound of the many people for whom the “fertility challahs” have worked. I like to say that eventually every challah results in a baby. I encourage the utilization of medical assistance and to endure as many pills and shots and procedures as one can. If too much time elapses, I send another challah and another round of hope.
I believe in the power of the challot because I felt it firsthand. When I had trouble conceiving with my second child, someone suggested that I ask others to bake for me. At first I thought the suggestion was insane. This woman told me that if I could get at least 40 people to bake for me within the same 24 hour period that I would conceive. I sent out an email to a few close friends and to a few women I knew were baking challah anyway. Within a week over 150 women from around the world committed to baking for me. We agreed on a date which ended up being the day before my third IUI treatment. I conceived with my son. Miracles do happen. In my experience they happen for all of us. Reaching out for help and disclosing our pain and loss is not easy, but often surprising things come out of sharing difficult experiences, such as the ability to find strength and hope with one another.
As my children have grown, they have joined me in the process of baking “fertility challah.” They are aware of the prayers and the intention of creating babies. I joke that the magic ingredient is “pediatric germs.” It’s brought a new dimension to the challah and it’s sweet to share the intention with my own challah babies.
How to bake fertility challah –
First, find your recipe. This is my favorite. It works great in the high altitude of Colorado.
After letting the challah dough rise, it’s time to braid. This is the cornerstone of fertility challot. When I braid the challah I think about both partners (if you are doing this for someone else, be sure to request the name of both hopeful parents) and my hopes that they should have a “take home baby.”
Finally you bake the challah. But, if you do the full challah recipe (which requires 5lbs of flour), what do you do with all that challah? If it’s a slow week or I know the parents personally, I often ship a challah to the people I am praying for and encourage them to eat the challah with those with whom they would celebrate the conception and birth. This adds an additional dimension and opportunity to share the intention and the message of hope.
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