The Problem:

Many Jewish women are accustomed to baking challah weekly in honor of Shabbat. There is, however, a minimum quantity of flour (known as a shiur challah) that must be used in order to justify reciting the blessing (brachah) when performing the mitzvah of separating challah. As the family dynamics change, sometimes we’re left with not enough “diners” to do justice to a shiur challah of bread over Shabbos, and no good balebusta (homemaker) wishes to waste food. So, we’re looking for possible solutions.

The Solutions

Needless to say, one could place the surplus challahs in the freezer or share them with another family. But my mandate is to look for halachic solutions, if they exist. So, let’s look at two options:

1) To divide the batch of dough; part of it will be shaped into challah loaves, and the remainder will be rolled out flat, flavored with cocoa, sugar and oil, and then rolled into a pastry.

2) To divide the batch of dough, part of it will be baked now and the other part will be placed—while it is still dough—in the freezer. Next week it will be defrosted and baked in honor of Shabbat.

The first solution seems quite acceptable, but some contemporary authorities maintain that one wouldn’t be able to recite the blessing when performing the mitzvah of separating challah (rationale, below). The second solution is more problematic also regarding the blessing.

Let’s explain:

The Code of Jewish Law states1:

A batch of dough made by a baker with the intention that it should become yeast, which would be divided, is obliged with the mitzvah of separating challah, for if the baker doesn’t manage to sell it [as yeast], he will bake it as bread. A batch of dough made by another person with the intention of dividing it whilst it is still dough, is exempt from the mitzvah of separating challah.

This text doesn’t clearly define the meaning of “to be divided.” Most commentaries understand this to mean that the dough will be divided and shared-out to several people, leaving none of them with a shiur challah.2

A second opinion is that “divided” refers to the self-same person who made the dough, i.e., that the individual intends to use some of the dough now and will leave the remainder to be baked at a later occasion.3

This second opinion will nullify the second solution mentioned above (placing the surplus dough in the freezer), because, according to this understanding, the intent to divide the large dough to be baked in separate small batches, exempts the original batch from the mitzvah of separating challah. Although the majority do not accept this interpretation, it still casts a doubt. Regarding blessings, the rule is: “When in doubt, do without”; one should be careful not to make a blessing in vain.

Then there is the opinion of the Chazon Ish4: “divided” means that part of the batch will be used for one product and the other part will be flavored differently. The intention to divide the single batch of dough into smaller batches of different flavors causes it to be regarded as separate batches, each less than a shiur challah.

Although the majority do not follow this interpretation, some contemporary authorities regard it as substantial enough to cast a doubt. They advise, therefore, that challah should be separated from the original batch of dough, but without reciting the appropriate blessing.

Personally, I struggle to understand this third approach. I have shared my concerns with numerous prominent scholars and I have yet to discover a solution.

My struggle:

The Code of Jewish Law5 rules that one need not separate challah from a dough that is intended for cooking (in water) rather than baking. So, for example, a dough that will be made into pasta is exempt. This leads to the following ruling6:

Even if the intent was to cook the dough, if one intends to bake a small part thereof, and did so, even if the baked portion was less than the shiur challah, the entire batch of dough is subject to the mitzvah of separating challah.

Hence my difficulty:

A shiur challah that is divided, with part of it being used for a challah-exempt product, is still obliged with the mitzvah of separating challah. How then is it possible that when the division is into separate products, both of which are subject to the mitzvah of separating challah, that the duty of separating challah should be suspended?

Bakers and Laymen

According to this approach, I also struggled as to why the ruling for bakers should differ from the ruling for laypersons.

According to the first opinion, the difference is simple: At the moment the baker intends to sell small batches of dough to his customers, if he has no customers for dough, then he will bake these small portions as bread.

Also according to the understanding that division implies saving some dough for later, the intention for the layperson is different: at the moment the intention is to leave the surplus dough for a later occasion. But, for a baker, his circumstances are likely to change, and he require the surplus for immediate use. This likelihood dictates that the entire batch is regarded as if it will be used now.

But if the division is due to the intention to divide it into different recipes, why should the baker’s intention be seen as less resolute than that of a layman? Someone baking in one’s home doesn’t want Shabbat challah loaves to be tainted with chocolate oozing out of the pastry. The baker is certainly keen to protect the respective qualities of each of his products.

A possible explanation: True, at the moment, the baker intends to manufacture two small quantities of different-flavored products. However, his circumstances may easily change with a new request from a customer, requiring a full shiur challah for one or both of the products. The needs of the layperson, by contrast, are more predictable; therefore, the intention to create separate-flavored products is seen as more resolute and exempted from the mitzvah of separating challah.

In Practice

Responsa Tzemach Tzedek7 concludes not to follow the second approach. Therefore, dividing the dough to be baked at several occasions does not affect the recital of the blessing when separating challah. His rationale would equally allay doubt due to the third approach, quoted above.

Thus, baking some dough into pastry and freezing some for the following week are both acceptable solutions. However, sending some extra dough to the neighbor to bake would not be a good idea, as the majority understand this to be “dividing” the dough.