It’s a fact that many people spend much time thinking and even worrying about par’nassah (livelihood).
Jewish tradition teaches that different seasons have different spiritual strengths. Certain times are regarded as propitious to pray for rain, while other times are considered appropriate to petition for forgiveness. (Of course, these things may also be prayed for at other times of the year!) So too, our spiritual leaders have noted that there are certain times on the Jewish calendar when it is propitious to focus on praying for par’nassah. One such time is the Shabbat that immediately follows Passover, when it is a custom in some Jewish communities to make what is known as shlissel (Yiddish for key) challah.
There are a number of reasons suggested for this custom. Due to space limitations, Jewish Treats will present only a few:
1) The Mishnah (Rosh Hashanah 2:2) states that on Passover the world is allocated its grain harvest for the coming year.
2) The Jews celebrated Passover just before entering the land of Canaan, at which point there was no more manna (the heavenly food of the wilderness). Henceforth, the Jewish nation needed to generate its own par’nassah.
3) A “key” serves as a symbol to remind us that our prayers have the power to open the Gates of Heaven.
There are different ways to perform this custom. Some people bake an actual key (scrubbed clean or wrapped in foil/parchment paper) into the challah, while others mold their challah into the shape of a key. One custom mentions using a key to knead the dough, and there are still other customs as well.
Whatever one’s custom, it is hoped that the symbolic message will reach its proper destination and have the desired beneficial effect on one’s livelihood.
*This Treat was originally published on April 17, 2009. It is being re-Treated as an interesting fact for this time of year.
Copyright © 2012 National Jewish Outreach Program. All rights reserved.