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What Is Challah?

What Is Challah?


The pure, simple, unadorned word challah means “a loaf of bread.” However, in halachic terms the word challah has a very specific definition, and colloquially it came to mean a certain type of bread thousands of years later.

The halachic definition of challah is a reference to Positive Mitzvah #133. It entails separating a section of dough from your kneading and giving it to a kohen. This piece of dough is called “challah.” Any dough which is made of wheat, barley, spelt, oat or rye is obligated in this mitzvah. The kohen and his family would eat the challah while in a state of ritual purity. The rabbis decided that a home baker should give 1/24th of the dough to the kohen, while a commercial baker has to donate 1/48th of his dough.

Biblically speaking, the mitzvah of challah is observed only in the Land of Israel. Furthermore, according to most halachic authorities, the mitzvah of challah was a requirement only in the times of the Temple. Today, no Temple, no challah. But the rabbis reinstituted the practice of challah—even outside the Land of Israel—to commemorate this special mitzvah. However, since today we are all considered ritually impure, the kohen cannot eat the challah. Instead, Jewish women through the centuries knead homemade dough, and then separate a piece of the dough and burn it. All kosher bakeries do the same—they separate a piece of dough from each batch, and throw it on the floor of the oven. Today only a small piece of dough is separated for challah: since it isn’t eaten, it would be wasteful to separate 1/24th or 1/48th of the dough.

Before separating the challah, the following blessing is recited:

Baruch attah Ado-noy Elo-hei-nu melech ha-olam asher kid-e-sha-nu b’mitz-vo-tav v’tzi-vanu le-haf-rish challah.
[Blessed are You, L‑rd our G‑d, King of the universe, who has sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us to separate challah.]

Eventually, the soft, sweet bread loaves customarily eaten by the Shabbat meals became known as challah (not “hally,” as is the popular mispronunciation).

Written by Mendy Hecht of Brooklyn, New York
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Menachem Posner Montreal March 13, 2013

To Eddie in NY A healthy person should indeed have two whole loaves at the Shabbat meals. They do not need to be braided challah, but they should be bread loaves. If you cannot have bread (for example celiac), there are other options. You can learn what those options are as well as why we generally must have bread on Shabbat at My Doctor Ordered Me Off Challah! Reply

Eddie New York March 13, 2013

challah As I understood the article, please correct me if I am mistaken, there is currently no "requirement" (i.e., positive mitzvah, commandment or otherwise,) to eat challah. Is that correct ?

Moreover, if a person following a special diet, (e.g., gluten free and/or low carb, etc.,) wishes to abstain entirely from eating starch, is that consistent with kashruth? (I am assuming that the obligation to eat chalah is an exception.)

Thank you very much ! Reply

Chani Benjaminson, August 28, 2008

challah it is possible that you need to adjst the flour amounts due to the altitude of the place you live's always best to put less flour in and slowly add as needed. Here's a recipe that's easy and has only one egg. You can omit the yolk if you want.
2 cups warm water
3 Tbsp dried yeast or 2 cakes of fresh yeast (dissolve in water with a Tbsp Sugar)
Add 1/2 cup oil, 1/2 cup sugar, 1 egg, 1 TBSP salt. Mix well, add around 7 cups flour or 1 kg. Mix and knead, coat with a little oil, cover and let rise. Let me know how it goes! Reply

sabrina algers, algeria August 27, 2008

challah thank you for everything i've learn too much from your site and i'm always trying to cook according to the ingredients mentionned infortunately whenever i cook challah i've never succed in it . it is always dry and stong like a rock , the pasta never be smmoth please give me ideas to make a smooth and lovely challah.
I have a high cholesterol and tryglycerid is it possible to reduce eggs and sugar
best regards Reply

Miriam Worcester, MA July 17, 2007

helpful article Thank you for writing such a concise informative article. I have to teach a challah class this friday, and this is very helpful. Reply

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