What is Challah?

Challah, as you may already know is the traditional Jewish bread eaten on Jewish holidays. Did you know, though, that there is religious significance, and it isn’t merely a cultural practice?  In this post you will learn about the importance of Challah in Jewish tradition, how Challah is different from other breads, and at the end there are two recipes.

According to the Torah, while the Israelites wandered in the desert after the Exodus from Egypt, God provided a special kind of food,called manna.

The house of Israel named it manna, and it was like coriander seed, white, and its taste was like wafers with honey. ~ Exodus 16:31

The Torah continues to explain that the Israelites were commanded to take only what they needed, except on the Sabbath (and other holidays?), where they should collect double portion.

Therefore, the Challah is a symbol to remember that God took us out of Egypt and provided us with food.  Jews traditionally have  double portions of Challah on the Sabbath and other holidays to further remember that Israelites collected double portions in preparation.

What makes it different than other bread?

– traditionally it does not include butter or milk

– there is a mitzvah (commandment?) of taking a portion of dough before braiding. This portion of dough is set aside as a tithe for the Kohen.[7]

– shapes: braided–what’s its significance?; rosh hashanah (link to post about what rosh hashanah is) challah is traditionally round.

Salt significance:

According to Jewish law and practice, salting challah is a critical component of HaMotzi, the blessing over bread. Salt has always played an indispensable role in Jewish life and ritual dating back to the biblical period of ancient Israel. With high quantities located in the Dead Sea region of the historical land of the Jewish people, salt was considered the most essential and common of all elements.[12]

In the Torah, salt symbolizes the eternal covenant with God.[13] As a preservative, the mineral never spoils or decays, signifying the immortality of this bond.[14] Moreover, adding taste to food, salt represents a covenant with God that has meaning and flavor.[15]

The religious significance of salt is discernible in the Temple Period as portrayed in Jewish liturgy. The importance of salt in ritual is symbolized in the ceremony of the covenant, or the Temple sacrifice to God. Since according to Jewish tradition it is the most important necessity of life,[16] salt is a requisite for the ‘food of God,’ or the Temple sacrifice.[17] As commanded by God in Leviticus 2:13, “with all thy sacrifices, thou shalt offer salt.”[18] It seems in this verse that salt is required for meal-offerings only; however, rabbis later concluded that just as no sacrifices can be offered without the presence of priests, no sacrifices can be offered without salt.[19]

Following the destruction of the Temple, Jewish ritual was redefined to exist in a diaspora. Rabbinic literature constructed a concept suggesting that a table set for a meal was to symbolize the Temple altar. Salt should be placed on the table and the blessing over food should not be recited without it.[17]

Traditional Challah: http://blogs.forward.com/the-jew-and-the-carrot/154903/shabbat-meals-honey-challah/

Funkier Challah: http://smittenkitchen.com/blog/2012/09/fig-olive-oil-and-sea-salt-challah-book-tour/

Challah – how do you make it, traditions behind it, the different shapes and varieties, why you burn one piece, etc. then – best challah bakeries

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