The Hebrew word “challah” does not actually mean bread, but rather refers to the tithe of the bread that was given as a gift to the priests in ancient times (Numbers 15:20). Exactly when the term challah began to be applied to the bread eaten on Shabbat is unclear.
In the absence of the Temple, the complete mitzvah of Challah cannot be fulfilled (as the kohain cannot eat the separated piece unless ritually pure). However, the mitzvah is still maintained in part by separating a portion of dough during the baking process. Today, therefore, if one is baking a large amount of dough (generally 3 lbs 10 oz.* of flour or more), one is obligated to “take challah” with a blessing before baking the dough.
To “take challah,” a small ball of dough is taken and wrapped in foil, for once the blessing is said, the small piece of separated challah has a sanctified status. The following blessing is recited:
Ba’ruch Ah’tah Ah’doh’nai Eh’lo’hay’nu Melech ha’o’lam ah’sher kidishanu b’mitz’vo’tav v’tzee’vanu l’haph’reesh challah min ha’eesah
Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, who has sanctified us in His commandments and commanded us to separate the challah from the dough.
If one made dough using less then the amount required for the blessing, but more than 2 lbs 10 oz., one should separate the challah but not make a blessing. (Since there are different opinions regarding the exact amount of flour, please check with your local rabbi.)
The separated challah must now be either burned in an empty oven or buried. Once the challah has been burned, it should be disposed of in a respectful manner.
*There are varying opinions on the exact amount of flour.
This Treat was originally posted on June 26, 2009.
Copyright © 2010 National Jewish Outreach Program. All rights reserved.