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The Separation of "Challah"

The Separation of "Challah"

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I’ll bet you thought challah refers to the two braided loaves of bread reserved for Shabbat meals. It does. But challah is also the small chunk of dough we tear off and burn before baking any bread.

Originally, that dough was given to a kohen, a descendant of Aaron who served in the Temple. In Messianic times, we’ll reinstate this practice. Meanwhile, we need to burn that challah before we can eat the bread from which it was taken.

Taking challah tells us that whatever we are given is not for our use alone. If we have wisdom, money or good health, our first step is to put them towards a Divine purpose.

The mitzvah of separating challah applies to every Jew, man or woman. Traditionally, however, this has been one of the special mitzvahs entrusted to the Jewish woman. In her role as the akeret habayit (foundation of the home), the woman is entrusted with mitzvahs that uplift and sanctify mundane activities, and nourish her family physically and spiritually.

What:

Challah is taken from wheat, rye, barley, oat or spelt batches that use at least 59 ounces of flour. If you use less than this but more than 43 ounces, take challah, but don’t recite the blessing.

The liquid you mix with the flour should contain water. If not, add a little water and then take challah with a blessing.

Cakes and cookies sometimes need challah taken, as well. If you’re planning to bake something with more than 10 cups of flour, check the rules here.

How:

After you knead the dough, before shaping it into loaves, place all your dough in a single pan or bowl and recite:

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.

Separate a small piece (approx. one ounce) and say: “This is challah.”

Wrap the challah in foil and place it in the empty broiler or oven, or burn it by any other method.

See our Challah Wizard for more on this subject.

Illustrations by Yehuda Lang. To view more artwork by this artist, click here.
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Rochel Chein for chabad.org January 12, 2017

To anonymous Separating the first piece of dough as G-d instructs us to do, rather than utilizing it for our own purposes, reminds us that everything that we have is a blessing from G-d, and must similarly be directed towards fulfilling G-d's will.

The Torah tells us to give the separated piece of dough to a kohen, a member of the priestly family who served on behalf of all of Israel in the Holy Temple. The separated piece is sacred and must be kept ritually pure. Today, when the priests as well as the dough are presumed to be ritually impure, the dough cannot be eaten and is therefore burned. However, the very act of separating it serves as a reminder of G-d's commandment and the lessons that we learn from it. Reply

Anonymous Bay Area California December 30, 2016

The Separation of "Challah" Please clarify: First you burn the separated piece of ?"un-formed"? challah and then you throw it (the burnt separated piece) out?

And the explanation is: "Taking challah tells us that whatever we are given is not for our use alone. If we have wisdom, money or good health, our first step is to put them towards a G‑dly purpose."
How is it "not for our use alone" when we are burning the separated piece of challah and then presumably throwing it in the trash after it has been burnt? How does that symbolically show us and Hashem that the "offering" is not for our use alone? Is it a "dust to dust" idea? but than it is wrapped in foil so that doesn't make sense. If we have the "wisdom" I wonder if our "first step" should be something more tangible and in-line with "putting them towards a more G-dly purpose" like feeding the hungry?

Thoughts? Clarifications are appreciated and requested! Reply

Simcha Bart for Chabad.org Los Angeles July 17, 2016

From what you describe you make a loaf with less than 43 ounces of flour. As stated in the article above, you would not be obligated in the rules of burning the dough that you separated. On the other hand, if it would meet the required amount, then because of the sanctity of this special Mitzvah, it would need to be burned - ideally immediately after separating the unbaked dough. Reply

Anonymous TX, USA June 30, 2016

Challah rules I make a low gluten challah each week as my husband is diabetic and high gluten breads wreak havoc with his blood sugar. Also being a small family, we only have one large loaf. But I pull out a portion each week, we bake it and then go outside and scatter it for the birds, stray cats and bugs to eat. It seems a waste to just burn it up and not feed something else Hashem created with it. Is this wrong? Reply

Rochel Chein for chabad.org December 24, 2015

To Michele The separated dough can be burned before or after baking the loaves, as long as nothing else is baking in the oven at the same time. Reply

michele brooklyn December 22, 2015

if you are burning the separated dough in the oven do you have to do this before you bake the challahs Reply

Chabad.org Staff via mychabad.org September 18, 2014

To Anonymous Yes. As there is no requirement to take off challah from a small amount of dough, there is no issue with saying hamotzi. Reply

Anonymous September 18, 2014

Can we eat challah that was not separated (as in it was prepared in small batch) and say Hamotzi on it etc? There's recipe I want to try out but don't really want to bake big amounts, especially since it calls for baking enough for 1 loaf. Reply

Anonymous Chandler August 7, 2013

Thank you very much for this article - it helped me a lot. I would like to start doing this, but I have one question...once I've said the blessing and burned the challah that I've taken in the oven, what do I do with it? Are you allowed to just throw it away at that point? It seems like we should not put this in the trash, but I don't know what is required. Thanks very much for your help! Reply

Mrs. Chana Benjaminson via mychabad.org June 6, 2013

To Geoff The practice of giving a portion of the dough to the kohen, priest, and all other observances which are related to the Holy Temple, are temporarily on hold until the Holy Temple will be rebuilt with the arrival of the Messiah, may it be speedily in our days. Reply

Geoff June 6, 2013

Why would you state "In Messianic times, we’ll reinstate this practice"? Reply

Abraham Jos Bangalore, India. May 29, 2013

Abraham Jos I have seen this being practiced in India!

I have seen women keep aside a ball of flour or a handful or rice. Some do say some prayers while doing it. I was told that it is done so that we learn to give first and then take for ourselves.

In olden days they used to collect it over days and give it to their religious 'saints' who pass by occasionally. Otherwise they feed stray animals - birds or dogs - since they are also God's creations and they say that feeding them is like giving to God...! Reply

SaraLeah April 30, 2012

Giving to the Cohen A wise friend told me this: back in the day, women would bake at least once a week, if not more. So she (and others in her household) would be in contact with a Cohen very often. Maybe he would even come into the house for a drink and a shmooz while collecting. That makes for a lot of teachable moments for the Cohen to teach the mothers of Israel. What a benefit to the Jewish people! Reply

Rachel Garber Phila , PA USA February 7, 2011

Challah bread I always thought it was redundant to refer to the loves as "challah bread" as I sometimes see them labeled. I felt like calling up the companies and telling them that, but never got around to it. Guess they knew what they were doing on the packaging. Thanks Reply

Rachel NY October 13, 2010

Thank you!! Thank you so much for this article!! I used it to teach college students about Challah, this was the only article I could find that summarized it briefly and straight to the point! Reply

YESHIVA OF MANHTTAN BEACH brooklyn, ny December 3, 2008

this was a very descriptive paragraph it taught us a lot thank you for posting it.

PS:iT MADE US HUNGRY Reply

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