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Why Is Challah Braided?

Why Is Challah Braided?

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Question:

Why do we braid the challah bread baked for the Shabbat meals?

Answer:

Good question. Most challahs are braided with either three or six strands of dough. I recently heard an interesting explanation for the six-braided loaves.

Shabbat represents the idea of unity. The six days of the week are the paradigm of diversity. They are like the six directions in our three-dimensional world—north, south, west, east, up and down. During these days we are in a search outward, full of action and initiative, trying to master our environment.

Shabbat, on the other hand, represents the inner point. Shabbat points inward, and is full of the unity and the peace that comes with unity. That is why we greet one another with “Shabbat Shalom,” Shabbat of peace and unity. Shabbat also represents the innerness of absorbing the blessing from the six workdays and directing them to our homes and our lives.

Perhaps the braiding of the challah, which is eaten at the Shabbat table, also represents this idea of unity: how we tie everything together, bringing all the diversity in our lives together for a peaceful harmony and unity that only the Shabbat can achieve.

The two challahs together are thus also symbolic of the twelve showbreads which were placed every Shabbat on the table in the Holy Temple sanctuary.

This is just one possibly reason, and it is certainly not mandatory to use six-strand challahs.

This video demonstrates the art of the six-strand challah braid.

Chana Weisberg is the editor of TheJewishWoman.org. She lectures internationally on issues relating to women, relationships, meaning, self-esteem and the Jewish soul. She is the author of five popular books.
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moshe jaron nahariya, israel January 13, 2017

Challah Braids It seems no one knows why a challah is braided. There is nothing in the literatue. It appears not to be a mitzvah biblical or rabbinic.
Obviously it is a lovely minhag, but from when and where?
I think it could be an allusion to the braided hair of the Shabbos Queen, covered for modesty. Reply

Esther Israel January 13, 2017

I am a Jewish girl and I bake Challah every week. I do not want to sound arrogant and speak my mind about religious matters, but I think we should find the real reason why we make Challah braided in the Sephirot and how it looks like. Reply

Anonymous January 2, 2017

Challah reasoning Why do many challahs have three braids? There has been reasoning suggested for 6 but I have not read anything about the use of three. Reply

M L K Brockton Ma March 25, 2016

CHALLAH Making your own challah gives you a great emotional reward for me it does . Challah represents G-d Israel our whole Jewish nation our people are fighting for . Shalom is what the Jewish nation needs . As a whole everyone needs Shalom question is how is that achieved ? When lighting Sabbath candles tradition is placing a challah beside the Sabbath candles . Reply

Don Weinshank 48823 March 22, 2016

non-gluten challah In recent years,I became gluten-intolerant. Your physician can run a Vectra test for inflammatory response if necessary.

No wheat.

Turns out that challah according to halakhah must contain at least 51% of one of the five grains. Scratch wheat. Of the remaining four, only oats does not contain gluten.

Dig on the web to find gluten-free challot.

Cannot braid this bread since no gluten, so we cheat. Bought mold from Amazon. Loaf kind of looks like challah. 😀

You can say motzi lechem on this bread







Reply

Jacob London March 18, 2016

I think this is a brilliant answer for those out there who are looking for it.
Thank you. Reply

MLK August 15, 2015

Candles When lighting candles Friday People put a challah on the kitchen table before lighting candles . Is this just a custom ? Reply

Miriam Tel Aviv May 4, 2015

Wheat sheaf Did you ever look at a sheaf of wheat?
Take a careful look and you will never see anything else when you look at a challah!
Straight from the field to your shabbes table! reminding us that Hashem is what guides us and gives us sustenance from the bottom up, and of course the important connections between the land and our mouths. Especially the land of Israel which is completely reliant on Hashem's help and our fulfillment of the many important mitzvot related to the land.
Think of all the mitzvot related to the land, especially the ones that relate to justice and kindness such as leaving the corner of the field to the poor, shemitta etc etc. These are all implicit in those challa braids !
May we be able to fulfill all the mitzvot with the speedy coming of Mashiach. Reply

Kenneth R. Pritz December 24, 2012

I am so thankful for your Chabad website! I learn a lot of things I didn't know about in reference to Judaism! I am also thankful to the two young Chabad boys who come to my apartment every Friday afternoon, before Shabbat, to leave with me L'Chaim The weekly publication for Every Jew. Thank you again, Reply

Esther P November 30, 2012

The braid itself is a lesson the Baal Shem Tov says that "from everything we see or hear we should learn a lesson to serve Hashem", yes there is perhaps in this article, but the truth is that you could see how there is a whole knowledge behind this way of seeing it. It takes time and work to be able to see such a lesson only from the shape of the challah. is not so simple to just see something and make it meaningful in our lives and in our service to Hashem. Thank you for such a lesson Reply

Moshe Jaron Nahariya, Israel November 30, 2012

Klal Yisrael I also think that the two challahs, each with their six braids, is representative of the 12 Tribes, the Klal Yisrael. The challahs then are supportive of the belief that despite our diversity, there is a shared community and destiny among all Jews. When the unity of Klal Yisrael is realized, we can look forward to advent of Moshiach. With respect to Jewish diversity, I think that Mizrachi Jews do not have the custom of braided challahs. Reply

K. Khan November 30, 2012

Thanks, for bring small details to the far reaches of the world. On behalf of all of us living in Pakistan and Kashmir, we would like to thank you and especially the Team Chabad, for spreading the light of Torah throughout the world. Trust me the condition of Jewish people here is worse than that in the former USSR. It is HaShem, who gives us strength to survive. This is a nice point you have made in this article.
May HaShem Bless you and Team Chabad.

Shabath Shalom, to all. Reply

Mitchell Wachtel Lubbock, Texas November 29, 2012

Beautiful words. You should do more food articles; your writing is lovely. There's so much in our dietary materials, the subtle parts, not the obvious ones. Reply

Shmuel Crown Hts November 29, 2012

Try THIS explanation I think the challah braid is reminiscent of the DNA molecule, the shape of life itself. The spiral shows up a few times in the Torah: the tzitzit, the shofar, and the bronze serpent coiled around a staff that Moshe carried thru the camp when plague broke out that healed the sick, and was probably copied by the Greeks for their caduceus. At weddings two challahs are baked for the couple, with blessing of health, wealth and fertility! Reply

Anonymous NJ November 29, 2012

Another reason for the braid I remember learning before that the seventh day, since it had no partner based off the days of creation (1 was with 4, 2 with 5, 3 with 6), had the Jewish people as its partner. Lecha Dodi is also sung on Shabbat to welcome the Sabbath Queen, so Shabbat is akin to this marriage. Regarding the braiding, it is similar to the braiding of a bride's hair. Reply

Judy Freed Beer Sheva November 28, 2012

I was taught to use 4 strands, and most Israeli bakeries use one long strand. I have seen recipes that recommend anything from a simple three strand braid to seven strands. I have also read that some Jewish communities didn't use braided bread at all for Shabbat, but rather some other form of bread. so I can only conclude that the shape of the Shabbat Challah bread is a (largely European/ American) custom. It's possibe that the use of the braided loaves started as an elegant way to make a bread that could be easily aportioned without the need of a knife. Challah actually refers to the part that is burned, and it can be separated either before or after the bread is baked. Challa is also separated from cookies and cakes. The requirement is dependent on the quantity of flour used, not it's proportion to the other ingredients. I knew a woman who made a point of baking a kilo(of flour) worth of cakes every week before Shabbat. She separated challah from each type of cake. Reply

Adam Thornhill November 26, 2012

Chalah What do those strands represent? Two, four or six. Reply

kitten Langley, Canada January 20, 2009

braided challah very beutafully written Reply

Anonymous February 22, 2008

braided challah What you wrote was very beautiful, but my understanding is that the Hebrew word for braid is the same as one of the words for chaos. Is this correct? I also wonder why it is called challah since in the Tanakh thew word challah is almost always used for bread that is without leaven. Reply

zlata ehrenstein zfas, israel February 22, 2008

challah That is a beautiful way of looking at it. We also know that baking challah has the power to bring blessing into our homes. Bringing G-d into our homes also brings unity between family members.
Do you know how this ties in to the custom of making 12 loaves - first row: one; second row: two; third row: three and the next three rows the opposite order.

What does one do with the challah that is separated - burn it in the same oven as the challah itself? Before or after? I know that if I forget to separate the challah - the bread is forbidden. Does this then make my oven non-kosher if I will brun that dough in it together with the bread?
Thank you for sharing. I will use this idea in my classes. Gut shabbos wishing we will merit the shabbos for all eternity. Reply

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