The pure, simple, unadorned Hebrew word challah (חלה) means “a loaf of bread.” This has come to have two specific meanings:

Dough Separated and Sanctified

The halachic definition of challah involves 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. Once upon a time, the kohen and his family would eat the challah while in a state of ritual purity. Today, because the Holy Temple has been destroyed and the conditions of ritual purity in which the Kohanim ate the challah are not available, we do not actually give the challah to the kohen.

However, in remembrance of this gift and in anticipation of the future redemption and rebuilding of the Holy Temple, we still observe the mitzvah of separating the challah portion. We remove the piece of dough, but instead of eating it, we burn it, as its sacredness prohibits using it in any way.

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.]

How to Take Challah

Shabbat Bread

On Shabbat, we break bread thrice (or twice) times, each time on two whole loaves. We honor the Shabbat by using fine, tasty bread. Among Ashkenazi Jews, fluffy white bread, rich with eggs, is commonly used and is often braided. This traditional Shabbat bread is called challah.

How to Make Traditional Soft Challah