Illustration by Lea Kron
I’ll admit I was stumped the first time I saw #WAYWO on Sara Gochberg’s Melaveh Malkah Challenge (MMC) Initiative. Spearheading a grassroots revival of the incredible zechus of washing for Melaveh Malkah, Sara asks (and through her posts, facilitates), “What Are You Washing On?”
Using her vast marketing skills and talent with food as well as her drive to promote a mitzvah that involves eating (not fasting, phew!), Sara launched the Melaveh Malkah Challenge! So break out your carbs and sprinkle them with some melted cheese. Once you decide to join, the #WAYWO will become #WAYWF (What Are You Waiting For?).
What exactly is the mitzvah behind MMC?
Eating Melaveh Malkah is a meaningful and practical way to honor and properly escort the departing Shabbos Queen, nourish the luz bone, and tap into the brachos of health, prosperity, and spiritual growth that will continue into the new week. When you eat Melaveh Malkah, it lets the serenity of Shabbos linger before the demands of the new week beckon. People who have taken the Challenge say it elevates their family’s Motzaei Shabbos and upcoming week. Besides washing, it’s encouraged to also have hot food (especially bread) or a hot drink as a refuah (cure) for the body and neshamah.
Walk me through your community’s evolution and growth.
I started the Melaveh Malkah Challenge in 2018 to bring brachah into my family’s life and as a personal challenge for myself. I had never been a Melaveh Malkah person, forget about washing after a whole Shabbos of eating challah! I shared with my friends what I was washing on by posting What Are You Washing On episodes, with an attached picture and “recipe” of my food. The first week was November 4, 2018, the week the clock changed. Each season starts the week the clock “falls back” — Season 5 started November 5, 2022.
My first episode featured the House of G’ s Grilled Cheese (a family recipe and favorite WAYWO). Many of my extended family members and friends were inspired and decided to join me, waiting for the weekly reminders and my weekly “menu.” Each subsequent year we added different components to make it more professional and attract a wider global audience across more media channels.
By now, we’ve added short recipe videos by famous food personalities, presented guest speakers who discuss the Torah behind Melaveh Malkah, and incorporated themes, giveaways, and collaborations to spark more conversation about the importance of the mitzvah and spread its awareness even further. Season 5’s theme focuses on kid-friendly ideas because we want to make the Challenge family-inclusive.
There are those who can’t look at their pots after Shabbos and, as in any mitzvah, those who want to do it with the most hiddurim. How do you appeal to both ends of the spectrum?
Like any new thing people take on, it’s baby steps. I’m the proof! And yes, if you plan in advance, you’ll be more likely to have a proper Melaveh Malkah. There are so many meaningful ways to enhance Melaveh Malkah and not make it just about the food. You can set the table with a beautiful tablecloth and light candles, you can sing zemiros, you can tell stories of tzaddikim and share divrei Torah.
But this is a personal challenge that everyone takes on in their own way. For some, the goal might be to wash once a month. For others, it may be a hot drink and mezonos when in the past they didn’t eat anything for Melaveh Malkah.
What are some blessings you’ve seen from Melaveh Malkah?
Twenty years ago, a friend’s husband was diagnosed with colon cancer. He had surgery, and the doctors removed a tumor the size of an orange. While no further treatment was required, it’s a cancer that commonly resurfaces. They were seeking a zechus to keep him healthy, since he was young! With the eitzah of Dayan Dunner, my friend and her husband took upon themselves to wash for Melaveh Malkah. They never missed a week, no matter the circumstances!
When he went for his checkup last year, the doctor was stumped. Never in their medical practice had a patient with this type of tumor not had so much as a subsequent polyp. The family feels that it was in the zechus of washing for Melaveh Malkah. I only learned my friend’s story when she joined the Melaveh Malkah Challenge community.
I am so inspired, motivated, and grateful for all my family and friends (and new MMC friends!) whose support and kabbalos for Melaveh Malkah helped spread the word about the Challenge. They’re MMC ambassadors and an essential part of the Melaveh Malkah Challenge! If you’re interested in joining this Challenge, I can be reached through Mishpacha at email@example.com.
Mention Melaveh Malkah and I think…carbfest! Pizza, pasta, cake — why do people find it so hard?
Of course there are the wash-a-phobes/bentch-a-phobes. And the fact that it’s a carbfest means it doesn’t speak to the carb-phobes. But, despite all that, so many people are eating Melaveh Malkah! When you start talking Melaveh Malkah, it’s incredible how many people share that they wash weekly! When Family First published a letter that I wrote in response to a Melaveh Malkah What’s Cooking roundup in 2021 (“Stars in the Sky, Appetites High”), my uncle reached out to tell me that his family has been washing for years and shared with me their Melaveh Malkah family traditions.
Any final MMC thoughts?
Even people who eat Melaveh Malkah each week aren’t always aware of all the blessings it brings to their home. Melaveh Malkah eases the transition of leaving behind the kedushah of Shabbos and sets up the week for more meaning and success. Take the Challenge this week and your Motzaei Shabbos will never be the same!
Plan your Melaveh Malkah as part of your Shabbos preparations. You’ll be more likely to wash if you’ve prepped for all four meals of Shabbos.
Sara in 60 Seconds
Location: I’m a New Yorker at heart and feel very grateful to call Miami Beach home.
Fave Melaveh Malkah meal: My version of avocado toast: avocado with arugula and tomatoes sprinkled with Everything But the Bagel spice (or pink Himalayan salt) on toasted sourdough.
Melaveh Malkah hot drink choice: Chamomile nana herbal tea (even though my reputation for coffee addiction precedes me!).
Family Table chefs who’ve contributed to the Melaveh Malkah Challenge: Sarah Faygie Berkowitz, Menachem Goodman, and Chaia Frishman, do you know her?
Tool I’d never be without: I love my knives; there’s nothing like a good knife!
Most difficult challenge to washing I’ve found: In Nissan, especially Motzaei Shabbos Hagadol, most houses are free of any real bread, and some have the minhag not to eat matzah until Pesach. That’s truly a Melaveh Malkah Challenge!
(Originally featured in Family Table, Issue 827)
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