In this guide, learn when is Challah separated, how to separate the Challah, the prayers and blessings to recite, and customs.
Challah (also Hallah plural: Challot/Halloth/Khallos) (Hebrew: חלה) also known as Chale (eastern Yiddish), Barches (Swabian), Barkis (Gothenburg), Bergis (Stockholm), Chałka (Polish) and Kitke (South Africa), is a special braided bread eaten by Ashkenazi Jews (and Sephardic Jews under Ashkenazi influence), on the Sabbath and holidays.
According to Jewish tradition, the three Sabbath meals (Friday night, Saturday lunch, and Saturday late afternoon) and two holiday meals (one at night and lunch the following day) each begin with two complete loaves of bread (Maimonides (d. 1204), Mishneh Torah Hilchot Shabbos, Chapter 30, Law 9). This Lechem Mishneh commemorates the manna that fell from the heavens when the Israelites wandered in the desert for forty years after the Exodus from Egypt. The manna did not fall on the Sabbath or holidays; instead, a double portion would fall the day before the holiday or sabbath. It is these hunks of bread, recognizable by their traditional braided style (although some more modern recipes are not braided) that are commonly referred to as challah.
Traditional challah recipes use a large number of eggs, fine white flour, water, and sugar. Modern recipes may use fewer eggs (there are also ,em>egg-less versions) and may replace white flour with whole wheat, oat, or spelt flour. Sometimes honey or molasses is substituted as a sweetener. The dough is rolled into rope-shaped pieces which are braided and brushed with an egg wash before baking to add a golden sheen. Sometimes raisins are added.
Challah is usually Parve, unlike brioche and other enriched European breads, which contain butter or milk.
The Jewish people first became obligated to perform the Mitzvah of Hafrashat Challah when they entered the Eretz Yisroel. The Mitzvah requires a person to set aside a portion of the dough that is to be baked into bread. This portion of dough is given to the kohanim, allowing them to live honorably and to fullfil their holy tasks in comfort. Since bread is man's primary source of sustenance, separating Challah is a commandment that is applicable at all times, and it brings blessing into our daily lives.
When the majority of Jews are living in the Land of Israel, Hafrashat Challah is Min HaTorah. The Torah does not specify exactly how much dough must be separated, but the Chachomim have determined that someone who bakes bread at home must separate 1/24 of the dough, and a commercial baker is obligated to separate 1/48 of his dough.
When the majority of Jews are not living in the Land of Israel, Hafrashat Challah is a Mitzvah Derabbanan. The Sages established that the separated piece of dough be the size of a Kazayit, practically speaking, 28 grams (about an ounce), or the size of a ping-pong ball. Hafrashat challah is observed in Eretz Israel and everywhere outside it, so that the mitzvah of challah will not be forgotten.
The piece of dough that is separated is called Challah. The word for the bread we eat on Shabbat is taken from this term. The separated piece of dough may be eaten only by kohanim who are ritually pure. Today, as long as the Temple is not rebuilt, everyone is considered impure, including the kohanim, and our challah too is impure. We may not give it to a kohen, nor may we eat it or derive benefit from it. We must therefore ensure that the separated challah will be rendered inedible. It should be burned or disposed of respectfully, since it contains an element of holiness.
Every moment of every day, we eagerly await the arrival of Mashiach and the return of all the Jewish people to the Land of Israel, and the rebuilding of the Holy Temple. We will then, once again, be able to perform the mitzvah of Hafrashat Challah fully, and in sanctity.
What a wonderful aroma fills the house when our home baked bread comes out of the oven, all the effort we put into it feels worthwhile. We have sifted the flour, added ingredients according to the recipe and a little according to our intuitions, kneaded the dough, waited for it to rise, and finally have placed the braided dough into the oven.
When we hear the praise for the beautiful challahs we have made, feelings of pride and satisfaction may steal their way into our hearts. It is natural to attribute this success to the recipe that we received from a neighbor, or to a special spice or ingredient that we added, or to the many years of experience we have with baking.
Amid the mixing bowls and sifted flour, the egg for glazing and sprinkling of sesame seeds to add just the right touch, we should remember the source of our success and perform the mitzvah of Hafrashat Challah.
The Torah commands us to separate a portion of the dough we have put so much effort into making, and to dedicate it to the Holy One Blessed be He. We must remember that it is more than just our talents and skills that have produced these challahs. G-ds blessing and Divine Providence are present in everything we do, as well as in the challahs that we make.
The wheat farmer, too, is commanded to separate a portion of his crop. Like the homemaker with her bread, the farmer invests much energy and effort in his field. He plows, plants, and is gratified when he sees his hard labor bear fruit. The farmer, though, is also constantly aware of his dependence on G-d's benevolent kindness for the success of his crop. He humbly faces the forces of nature, and prays to G-d for the blessing of rain. Finally, when the crops grow and ripen, the farmer takes the fruits of his labor and tithes a portion of it (terumah and ma’aser).
The mitzvah of hafrashat challah reminds us that Divine Providence goes beyond G-d’s dominance over the forces of nature. Divine Providence continues to guide us as we knead dough in the kitchen, as it does in everything we do. That is why challah is separated from the dough, which we ourselves have prepared, and not from the flour in its raw form. This is our way of expressing the recognition that the Creator oversees every detail of our lives, and it is He who blesses the fruits of our labors.
In order to determine whether our dough requires separating challah, and whether we should separate challah with a blessing or without a blessing, we must consider the type and the amount of flour used and the liquid contents of the dough.
The obligation to separate challah applies to dough made with flour produced from one of, or a combination of, the following five grains:
The amount of flour used determines whether challah is separated with a blessing or without a blessing, or is not separated at all.
These are the amounts of flour required for separating challah:
|Halachic Opinion||Do not Separate Challah||Separate Challah without a Blessing||Separate Challah with a Blessing|
|Rabbi Chaim Naeh
רבי חיים נאה
|Less than 1,230 gram
2 pounds, 11.4 ounces
|from 1,230 gram
2 pounds, 11.4 ounces
|from 1,666.6 gram
3 pounds, 10.8 ounces
|The Chazon Ish
|Less than 1,200 gram
2 pounds, 15.3 ounces
|from 1,200 gram
2 pounds, 15.3 ounces
|from 2,250 gram
4 pounds, 15.4 ounces
|Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu
רבי מרדכי אליהו
|Less than 1,666 gram
3 pounds, 10.8 ounces
|from 1,666 gram
3 pounds, 10.8 ounces
|from 2,486 gram
5 pounds, 7.7 ounces
|Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef
רבי עובדיה יוסף
|Less than 1,615.3 gram
3 pounds, 9 ounces
|from 1,615.3 gram
3 pounds, 9 ounces
|from 1,666.5 gram
3 pounds, 10.8 ounces
All flour used when preparing the dough, such as flour used when rolling the dough, should be included in the calculations.
It is preferable to measure the amount of flour in units of weight (grams, pounds, ounces) rather than in cups, because different types of flour have differences in moisture content, and the manner in which the flour is measured affects the measuring results. When flour is measured in cups, it is best to avoid the gray areas in the diagram below.
The Amount of Flour Required for Separating Challah – in Cups *
* The figures were calculated with a standard 8 oz. (230 cc) measuring cup containing sifted white flour. The figures were calculated based on the opinion of Rabbi Chaim Naeh.
In order that challah be separated from the dough, the majority of the dough's liquid content must be one of the following:
There is a difference of Halachic opinions as to whether the obligation to separate challah applies to dough whose liquid ingredients are only fruit juice or eggs. It is therefore preferable to add a bit of water, wine, milk, bee honey, or olive oil to the dough and separate challah without a blessing.
The mitzvah of separating challah applies not only to challah or bread dough, but also to any dough that meets the requirements of flour and liquids as detailed above, such as the dough of cakes, cookies, and pizza.
If one prepares a dough or batter with the intention of cooking or frying it (such as doughnuts or blintzes), challah should be separated without a blessing. However, if one's intention is to bake even a small part of it, challah should be separated with a blessing.
When preparing more than one dough, and each dough does not have the required amount of flour needed to separate challah, the doughs may be combined, and challah can be separated.
If one is concerned that the different doughs should not get mixed together (such as bread dough and cake batter), they should not be joined.
To combine the doughs, lay them next to one another so that they touch, and separate challah with a blessing. If it is difficult to combine the doughs, one may leave them in their bowls and cover them with a cloth or some other covering so that they appear to be one mass of dough.
Challah is usually separated from dough before it has been divided or shaped. In some cases, however, challah needs to be separated from the finished product, after the baking is done.
If you are separating challah from baked goods, cover them all with a cloth or place into one container. Then take a piece from one of the baked goods and say the blessing if required.
Remember not to partake of the baked goods until challah has been separated.
If you are separating challah from a loose batter, or if you forgot to separate challah before baking, see Separating Challah After Baking.
This is a favorable time for personal requests and prayers (see prayers for Hafrashat Challah).
It is the custom to stand while performing this mitzvah.
The piece of dough can be of any size. The custom is to separate a kazayit – 28 grams (approximately one ounce), or the size of a ping-pong ball.
It is preferable to burn the piece of dough that has been separated, but not in the oven. If the challah is burned on the gas range, it should first be well wrapped in aluminum foil so that the dough does not touch the grate. Another option is to place the piece of dough inside a tin-can and burn it on a lit gas range.
If burning the challah cannot easily be done, it may be wrapped in two layers of a material such as aluminum foil or plastic bags and discarded.
The moment of separating challah is an especially propitious moment for praying for family and loved ones. You may, of course, offer a personal prayer in your own words, or you can say one of the following.
יְהִי רָצוֹן מִלְּפָנֶיךָ ה' אֱלֹהֵינוּ וֵאלֹהֵי אֲבוֹתֵינוּ שֶׁתְּבָרֵךְ עִסָּתֵנוּ כְּמוֹ שֶׁשָּׁלַחְתָּ בְּרָכָה בְּעִסּוֹת אִמּוֹתֵינוּ שָׂרָה, רִבְקָה, רָחֵל וְלֵאָה, וִיקֻיַּם בָּנוּ הַפָּסוּק:
וְרֵאשִׁית עֲרִיסוֹתֵיכֶם תִּתְּנוּ לַכֹּהֵן לְהַנִּיחַ בְּרָכָה אֶל בֵּיתֶךָ
May it be Your will, our G-d, the G-d of our Fathers, that You bless our dough, as You blessed the dough of our Mothers, Sarah, Rivkah, Rachel and Leah. And may we be blessed as in the verse:
You shall give the first yield of your dough to the kohen to make a blessing rest upon your home.
Some have the custom to recite the following verse twice before reciting the blessing for separating challah:
וִיהִי נועַם אֲדונָי אֱלֹהֵינוּ עָלֵינוּ וּמַעֲשֵׂה יָדֵינוּ כּוֹנְנָה עָלֵינוּ וּמַעֲשֵׂה יָדֵינוּ כּוֹנְנֵהוּ.
May the pleasantness of the L-rd our G-d be upon us; establish for us the work of our hands; establish the work of our hands.
יְהִי רָצוֹן מִלְּפָנֶיךָ יְיָ אֱלֹהֵינוּ וֵאלֹהֵי אֲבוֹתֵינוּ, שֶׁהַמִּצְוָה שֶׁל הַפְרָשַׁת חַלָּה תֵּחָשֵׁב כְּאִלּוּ קִיַּמְתִּיהָ בְּכָל פְּרָטֶיהָ וְדִקְדוּקֶיהָ, וְתֵחָשֵׁב הֲרָמַת הַחַלָּה שֶׁאֲנִי מְרִימָה, כְּמוֹ הַקָּרְבָּן שֶׁהֻקְרַב עַל הַמִּזְבֵּחַ, שֶׁנִּתְקַבֵּל בְּרָצוֹן. וּכְמוֹ שֶׁלְּפָנִים הָיְתָה הַחַלָּה נְתוּנָה לַכֹּהֵן וְהָיְתָה זוֹ לְכַפָּרַת עֲוֹנוֹת, כָּךְ תִּהְיֶה לְכַפָּרָה לַעֲוֹנוֹתַי, וְאָז אֶהְיֶה כְּאִלּוּ נוֹלַדְתִּי מֵחָדָשׁ, נְקִיָּה מֵחֵטְא וְעָוֹן. וְאוּכַל לְקַיֵּם מִצְוַת שַׁבַּת קֹדֶשׁ וְהַיָּמִים הַטּוֹבִים עִם בַּעֲלִי (וִילָדֵינוּ), לִהְיוֹת נִזּוֹנִים מִקְּדֻשַּׁת הַיָּמִים הָאֵלֶּה. וּמֵהַשְׁפָּעָתָהּ שֶׁל מִצְוַת חַלָּה, יִהְיוּ יְלָדֵינוּ נִזּוֹנִים תָּמִיד מִיָּדָיו שֶׁל הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא, בְּרֹב רַחֲמָיו וַחֲסָדָיו, וּבְרֹב אַהֲבָה, וְשֶׁתִּתְקַבֵּל מִצְוַת חַלָּה כְּאִלּוּ נָתַתִּי מַעֲשֵׂר. וּכְשֵׁם שֶׁהִנְנִי מְקַיֶּמֶת מִצְוַת חַלָּה בְּכָל לֵב, כָּךְ יִתְעוֹרְרוּ רַחֲמָיו שֶׁל הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא לְשָׁמְרֵנִי מִצַּעַר וּמִמַּכְאוֹבִים כָּל הַיָּמִים, אָמֵן:
May it be Your will, our G-d, the G-d of our Fathers, that the mitzvah of separating challah be considered as if I observed every one of its details. May my raising of the challah be considered as the sacrifice that was offered on the altar, which was willingly accepted. Just as giving the challah to the kohen in the past served to atone for sins, so may it atone for my sins and I shall be like a person reborn, free of sin and transgression. May I be able to observe the holy Shabbat and Festivals with my husband (and our children), and be nourished from the holiness of these days. May the influence of the mitzvah of challah enable our children to be always nourished by the hands of the Holy One blessed be He, with His abundant mercy, loving-kindness, and great love; and the mitzvah of challah be accepted as though I have given a tithe. And now, as I am fulfilling the mitzvah of challah with all my heart, so may the compassion of the Holy One Blessed be He be aroused to keep me from sorrow and pain always, Amen.
The following are some special spiritual benefits credited to the mitzvah of separating challah, along with some customs practiced while performing the mitzvah of seperating challah:
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