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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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Discussion (23)
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 .
M L K
Brockton Ma
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







Don Weinshank
48823
March 18, 2016
I think this is a brilliant answer for those out there who are looking for it.
Thank you.
Jacob
London
August 15, 2015
Candles
When lighting candles Friday People put a challah on the kitchen table before lighting candles . Is this just a custom ?
MLK
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.
Miriam
Tel Aviv
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,
Kenneth R. Pritz
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
Esther P
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.
Moshe Jaron
Nahariya, Israel
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.
K. Khan
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.
Mitchell Wachtel
Lubbock, Texas