Judaica Store Blog

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Makes Me Wanna Challah!

In ancient times, challah was a dough tithe given to the high priest. After the destruction of the temple, a piece of bread was burnt to remember the priest. Eventually challah became the entire bread loaf. Traditionally challah is made from braided egg dough.

1. Prepare the dough by dissolving yeast with a tablespoon of sugar in lukewarm water. Let sit for 10 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients from your challah recipe.
2. Knead the dough so it is smooth. If too firm, add water, if too soft, add flour.
3. Oil a bowl and coat the dough by flipping it in the bowl.
4. Heat the dough for 1-2 hours or until it rises to about double its original size. You may have to punch holes in it to let air rise.
5. Here, separate the challah (see Torah) and divide it so you can braid it like above.
6. Repeat step 4.
7. Preheat oven to 350.
8. Beat an egg yolk with some water, maybe even some sugar. Using an egg brush, glaze the yolk all around the challah. Poppy or sesame seeds can then be sprinkled on the dough.
9. Bake that challah for maybe half an hour, or until it sounds hollow if tapped on bottom. Cool it by removing it from the pan.

All you need next is a challah cover from your favorite Judaica store. A challah cover is a good investment - you don't want that baby going stale!

Techelet, Chilazon, and Blue-Dyed Tzitzis

There are two commandments in the Torah addressing the color of tzitzis. One mentions attaching white fringes to the corners of a four-cornered garment, while the other completely independent commandment mentions a thread of techelet to each corner.

While many talit-wearing Jews have little issue with the white string, the idea of the techelet string has caused a bit of controversy.

The chilazon, an aquatic or semi-aquatic organism, was responsible for providing the blood used to create the blue dye on the techelet thread. However, at some point in the history of the Jewish people, the identity of the chilazon was forgotten.

Since the information is no longer guaranteed, many rabbinical scholars wear only white tzitzit, because it would be unacceptable to wear blue thread if it’s not really techelet. However, many have attempted to discover the identity of the chilazon.

Rabbi Gershon Henoch Leiner (1839-1891), for example, believed the cuttlefish was the chilazon, and he therefore produced dye from that fish for his tzitzit.

Currently, however, the majority of Jewish communities fear the uncertainty of the chilazons identity, and therefore prefer to wear strictly white fringes. The assumption is that during the coming of the Messiah, Elijah will reveal the identity of the actual chilazon.

Until that point, tzitzis will continue to be seen with both white and blue dyed threads.

Ashkenazic vs. Sephardic: A Basic History

Ashkenazic Jews are descended from Northern and Eastern European Jews. Sephardic Jews come from the Iberian peninsula, and the Middle East. During the Jewish expulsion from Spain in the late 15th century, many Jews emigrated to Northern Africa. Sephardic means “Spain” in Hebrew, and Ashkenazi means “Germany.”

Sephardic Jews are subdivided into the European Jews and the Eastern Jews, who lived in Arab lands before the creation of Israel, where today, more than half of the Jews are Mizrachim, which means “Eastern.”

Yiddish was the language of Ashkenazi Jews, and was based on German and Hebrew. Ladino was based on Spanish and Hebrew and was the language of the Sephardic Jews.

Sephardic Jews usually follow the practices of Orthodox Judaism, and wear Kippot and tzitzis, while Ashkenazi Jews have smaller sects that differ according to their religious practices. Some Ashkenazi only wear kippot during Passover and in synagogue!

There are other groups of Jews that do not fit into the Ashkenazi/ Sephardic distinction. Ethiopian Jews, also called Falashas or Beta Israel, and Oriental Jews are just some of these. In the U.S. these groups are relatively small. Most American Jews are Ashkenazi, and came to the United States during the 19th and 20th centuries, but the oldest Jewish congregations are Sephardic and arrived here during the late 1600’s.

The Chupah Talit

The talit is commonly used in prayer, but the chupah talit is used for wedding ceremonies. The chupah talit is also referred to as a wedding canopy, and depending on certain practices, can be worn underneath a talit.

The chupah talit is usually held by four poles, one at each corner. Although the chupah talit should be held outside, some celebrate weddings indoors. The chupah talit should be an objet d’art, and as such is prized for its beauty and its symbolic meaning.

The canopy is open on all four sides, which means that the Jewish home is welcoming. It is supposed to represent the home of Abraham. There are no designs on the talit, which means that the Jewish home is supposed to be without embellishment. It is simple, and not defined by materiality.

The reason for the talit to be held under the sky is to commune with G-d. It signifies the sacred union of marriage, and its natural origins. The talit should remind the couple of their commitment to each other, and their commitment to G-d.

If you are looking for a chupah talit, visit Eichler’s today. They have all of your Judaica needs.

Tzitzis and Talitot!

Wearing tzitzis is a commandment that is easy to fulfill, and helps one to remember to follow the other commandments. There are all kinds of tzitzis. Mesh tzitzis, cotton tzitzis, which are the most popular kind of tzitzis, and even childrens tzitzis!

Wearing a talit is another great mitzvah. These prayers shawls are split into Ashkenazic, Sephardic, and Chabad. Many of our talis are smooth and lightweight, and hold steady on to your shoulders without slipping. Most are good for year round, but during summer, a wool talit can be heavy, which is why a lightweight talit is a great option.

With summer and the warmer months approaching, it’s good to have an extra talit or tzitzi, just in case one gets dirty, or sweaty, or you need lightweight mesh tzitzis that are more breathable and comfortable.

Choosing a talit or a tzitzi is simple with our wizard helper. Everything from size to color is covered for you, so you don’t have to worry about what is what. With all that extra time saved deciding on which tzitzi or talit is right for you, you can start looking for summer kippas and a fashionable new yarmulke!

Use the Tzitis Wizard at Eichlers.com!

Selecting the right tzitizis can sometimes be a challenging task. There are all kinds of specifications you must consider before you select the right talit or tzitzis for you. The tzitis is incredibly important because it reminds the wearer of their obligations to G-d and their fellows. The mitzvah of Tzitizis requires fringes to be tied at four corners of every garment, with the fringes have a certain number of knots. Some people prefer to tie the knots themselves, while others opt for the pre-tied and ready-to-wear tzitis.

If you’re concerned about buying the right Tzitis, Eichler’s has streamlined the shopping process for you.  The Tzitis Wizard at the Eichler’s online store takes all the guesswork out the selection process and never before has getting the right Tzitis been so easy.

First you select whether you need children or adult sizes, then you select what lineage you come from, next you select whether you’d like a cotton tzitis, or wool, or other fabric. After that you select your size which is listed by height. Then you choose the style, knotting, and strings.
So build the perfect Tzitis today with the Eichlers Tzitis Wizard.

Jewish Books for Kids and Teens

Reading is extremely beneficial activity for the health and longevity of the mind. Countless studies have shown that children who read more do better in school, are more curious and articulate, and have a more developed world view. But for many parents, weaning their child off of the habit of frequent television watching and onto a good habit book reading can be like pulling teeth. The key in getting your child to read is to get them books that appeal to their interests. People of all ages enjoy reading books with characters that they are able to relate to. If you’re having a hard time coaxing your child into picking up a book, you should look no further than your favorite judaica store.

At a good judaica store, you will find a bountiful selection of jewish books, which can appeal to readers of all ages.  Here are two jewish books that are sure to get them away from the T.V. and glued to a book for a change.

101 Stories for Young Children
From the Eichler's website: In these ample pages lie treasures, each one glittering with the fascination of a good story and the lasting impression of a valuable lesson. These stories, divided up with sections for younger and older children, keep alive the cherished stories of our tradition, passed on through the generations, about the greatness of our Sages and forefathers. From Avraham Avinu to the Ba'al Shem Tov and Choni HaMe'agel, this book is the perfect accompaniment to a serene bedtime and a special ingredient to help parents and children bond. Mesmerize your kids--and yourself, with this spell-binding collection. 

"Normal" and Other Stories
 From the Yated Ne'eman newspaper: Growing up is tough, fraught with handling responsibilities, social challenges, loneliness, and plenty of trials and tribulations. In this engaging collection of stories, young adults meet characters just like them--struggling with exactly the same struggles, and experiencing the same highs and lows. They're normal kids, just like you, and you're invited to take a peek into their lives, to see how they cope with the things that rock their boat. Step into this wonderful book and find out how "normal" you really are!