Challah (Hebrew: חלה) also khale (eastern Yiddish),(German
German language
German is a West Germanic language, related to and classified alongside English and Dutch. With an estimated 90 – 98 million native speakers, German is one of the world's major languages and is the most widely-spoken first language in the European Union....

 and western Yiddish), berches (Swabian), barkis (Gothenburg
Gothenburg is the second-largest city in Sweden and the fifth-largest in the Nordic countries. Situated on the west coast of Sweden, the city proper has a population of 519,399, with 549,839 in the urban area and total of 937,015 inhabitants in the metropolitan area...

), bergis (Stockholm
Stockholm is the capital and the largest city of Sweden and constitutes the most populated urban area in Scandinavia. Stockholm is the most populous city in Sweden, with a population of 851,155 in the municipality , 1.37 million in the urban area , and around 2.1 million in the metropolitan area...

), chałka (Polish
Polish language
Polish is a language of the Lechitic subgroup of West Slavic languages, used throughout Poland and by Polish minorities in other countries...

), vánočka (Czech
Czech language
Czech is a West Slavic language with about 12 million native speakers; it is the majority language in the Czech Republic and spoken by Czechs worldwide. The language was known as Bohemian in English until the late 19th century...

), zopf
Zopf or Züpfe is a type of Swiss bread made from white flour, milk, egg, butter and yeast. The dough is brushed with egg yolk before baking, lending it its golden crust. It is baked in the form of a plait and traditionally eaten on Sunday mornings...

Switzerland name of one of the Swiss cantons. ; ; ; or ), in its full name the Swiss Confederation , is a federal republic consisting of 26 cantons, with Bern as the seat of the federal authorities. The country is situated in Western Europe,Or Central Europe depending on the definition....

) and kitke (South Africa
South Africa
The Republic of South Africa is a country in southern Africa. Located at the southern tip of Africa, it is divided into nine provinces, with of coastline on the Atlantic and Indian oceans...

), is a special braided bread
Bread is a staple food prepared by cooking a dough of flour and water and often additional ingredients. Doughs are usually baked, but in some cuisines breads are steamed , fried , or baked on an unoiled frying pan . It may be leavened or unleavened...

 eaten on the Sabbath
Sabbath in Christianity is a weekly day of rest or religious observance, derived from the Biblical Sabbath.Seventh-day Sabbath observance, i.e. resting from labor from Friday sunset to Saturday sunset, is practiced by seventh-day Sabbatarians...

 and holidays
Jewish holiday
Jewish holidays are days observed by Jews as holy or secular commemorations of important events in Jewish history. In Hebrew, Jewish holidays and festivals, depending on their nature, may be called yom tov or chag or ta'anit...


Religious significance

According to Jewish tradition, the three Sabbath meals (Friday night, Saturday lunch, and Saturday late afternoon
Seudah Shlishit
Seudah Shlishit is the "third meal" customarily eaten by Sabbath-observing Jews on Shabbat .-Practices:According to Halakha, the meal is to be eaten in the afternoon...

) and two holiday meals (one at night and lunch the following day) each begin with two complete loaves of bread. This "double loaf" (in Hebrew: lechem mishneh) commemorates the manna
Manna or Manna wa Salwa , sometimes or archaically spelled mana, is the name of an edible substance that God provided for the Israelites during their travels in the desert according to the Bible.It was said to be sweet to the taste, like honey....

 that fell from the heavens when the Israelites wandered in the desert for forty years after the Exodus
The Exodus
The Exodus is the story of the departure of the Israelites from ancient Egypt described in the Hebrew Bible.Narrowly defined, the term refers only to the departure from Egypt described in the Book of Exodus; more widely, it takes in the subsequent law-givings and wanderings in the wilderness...

 from Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

. The manna did not fall on the Sabbath or holidays; instead, a double portion would fall the day before the holiday or sabbath.

Ingredients and preparation

Traditional challah recipes use a large number of eggs
Egg (food)
Eggs are laid by females of many different species, including birds, reptiles, amphibians, and fish, and have probably been eaten by mankind for millennia. Bird and reptile eggs consist of a protective eggshell, albumen , and vitellus , contained within various thin membranes...

, fine white flour
Flour is a powder which is made by grinding cereal grains, other seeds or roots . It is the main ingredient of bread, which is a staple food for many cultures, making the availability of adequate supplies of flour a major economic and political issue at various times throughout history...

, water
Water is a chemical substance with the chemical formula H2O. A water molecule contains one oxygen and two hydrogen atoms connected by covalent bonds. Water is a liquid at ambient conditions, but it often co-exists on Earth with its solid state, ice, and gaseous state . Water also exists in a...

, yeast
Yeasts are eukaryotic micro-organisms classified in the kingdom Fungi, with 1,500 species currently described estimated to be only 1% of all fungal species. Most reproduce asexually by mitosis, and many do so by an asymmetric division process called budding...

, and sugar. Modern recipes may use fewer eggs (there are also eggless versions) and may replace white flour with whole wheat, oat
The common oat is a species of cereal grain grown for its seed, which is known by the same name . While oats are suitable for human consumption as oatmeal and rolled oats, one of the most common uses is as livestock feed...

, or spelt
Spelt is a hexaploid species of wheat. Spelt was an important staple in parts of Europe from the Bronze Age to medieval times; it now survives as a relict crop in Central Europe and northern Spain and has found a new market as a health food. Spelt is sometimes considered a subspecies of the...

 flour. Sometimes honey
Honey is a sweet food made by bees using nectar from flowers. The variety produced by honey bees is the one most commonly referred to and is the type of honey collected by beekeepers and consumed by humans...

 or molasses
Molasses is a viscous by-product of the processing of sugar cane, grapes or sugar beets into sugar. The word molasses comes from the Portuguese word melaço, which ultimately comes from mel, the Latin word for "honey". The quality of molasses depends on the maturity of the sugar cane or sugar beet,...

 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 raisin
Raisins are dried grapes. They are produced in many regions of the world. Raisins may be eaten raw or used in cooking, baking and brewing...

s are added. Some bakers like to sprinkle sesame or poppy seeds on top for flavor.

Challah is usually parve (containing neither dairy nor meat, important in the laws of Kashrut
Kashrut is the set of Jewish dietary laws. Food in accord with halakha is termed kosher in English, from the Ashkenazi pronunciation of the Hebrew term kashér , meaning "fit" Kashrut (also kashruth or kashrus) is the set of Jewish dietary laws. Food in accord with halakha (Jewish law) is termed...

), unlike brioche
Brioche is a highly enriched French pastry, whose high egg and butter content give it a rich and tender crumb. It is "light and slightly puffy, more or less fine, according to the proportion of butter and eggs" It has a dark, golden, and flaky crust, frequently accentuated by an egg wash applied...

 and other enriched European breads, which contain butter
Butter is a dairy product made by churning fresh or fermented cream or milk. It is generally used as a spread and a condiment, as well as in cooking applications, such as baking, sauce making, and pan frying...

 or milk
Milk is a white liquid produced by the mammary glands of mammals. It is the primary source of nutrition for young mammals before they are able to digest other types of food. Early-lactation milk contains colostrum, which carries the mother's antibodies to the baby and can reduce the risk of many...


Hafrashat Challah ritual

The term challah also refers to the Mitzvah
The primary meaning of the Hebrew word refers to precepts and commandments as commanded by God...

 of separating a portion of the dough before braiding. This portion of dough is set aside as a tithe
A tithe is a one-tenth part of something, paid as a contribution to a religious organization or compulsory tax to government. Today, tithes are normally voluntary and paid in cash, cheques, or stocks, whereas historically tithes were required and paid in kind, such as agricultural products...

 for the Kohen
A Kohen is the Hebrew word for priest. Jewish Kohens are traditionally believed and halachically required to be of direct patrilineal descent from the Biblical Aaron....

. In Hebrew, this Mitzvah
The primary meaning of the Hebrew word refers to precepts and commandments as commanded by God...

 is called "hafrashat challah."

Traditional Shabbat meal

It is customary to begin the Friday night meal and the two meals eaten during the Sabbath
Shabbat is the seventh day of the Jewish week and a day of rest in Judaism. Shabbat is observed from a few minutes before sunset on Friday evening until a few minutes after when one would expect to be able to see three stars in the sky on Saturday night. The exact times, therefore, differ from...

 day with a blessing over two challot. After kiddush
Kiddush , literally, "sanctification," is a blessing recited over wine or grape juice to sanctify the Shabbat and Jewish holidays.-Significance:...

 over a cup of wine, the head of the household recites the blessing over bread: Replace "HaShem" and "Elokeinu" with the appropriate pronunciation. "Baruch atah Adonai, eloheinu melech ha'olam, hamotzi lechem min ha'aretz" (translation: "Blessed are you, Adonai, Sovereign of the universe, who brings forth bread from the earth").

Rosh Hashanah

On Rosh Hashanah
Rosh Hashanah
Rosh Hashanah , , is the Jewish New Year. It is the first of the High Holy Days or Yamim Nora'im which occur in the autumn...

, the Jewish New Year, the challah may be rolled into a circular shape (sometimes referred to as a "Turban Challah"), symbolizing the cycle of the year, and baked with raisins in the dough. Sometimes the top is brushed with honey in honor of the "sweet new year."

Schlissel challah

For the Shabbat Mevarchim preceding Rosh Chodesh
Rosh Chodesh
Rosh Chodesh or Rosh ḥodesh is the name for the first day of every month in the Hebrew calendar, marked by the appearance of the new moon. The new moon is marked by the day and hour that the new crescent is observed...

Iyar is the eighth month of the civil year and the second month of the ecclesiastical year on the Hebrew calendar. The name is Babylonian in origin. It is a spring month of 29 days. Iyar usually falls in April–June on the Gregorian calendar.In the Hebrew Bible, before the Babylonian Exile, the...

 — i.e., the first Shabbat after the end of the Jewish holiday of Passover
Passover is a Jewish holiday and festival. It commemorates the story of the Exodus, in which the ancient Israelites were freed from slavery in Egypt...

 — there is a custom of baking schlissel challah ("key challah") as a segula (propitious sign) for parnassa (livelihood). Some make an impression of a key on top of the challah before baking; some place a key-shaped piece of dough on top of the challah before baking; and some bake an actual key inside the challah.The earliest written source for this custom is the sefer
Sefer (Hebrew)
Sefer in simple Hebrew is a word that means any kind of "book" It is derived from the same Hebrew root-word as sofer , sifriyah and safrut ....

Ohev Yisrael by Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Heshel
Avraham Yehoshua Heshel
Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Heshel of Apt, popularly known as the Apter Rebbe or Apter Rov, was born in Żmigród, Poland in 1748 and died in Mezhbizh, Russian Empire in 1825.-Rabbinical career:...

, the Apter Rav. He calls schlissel challah "an ancient custom," and also offers several kabbalistic
Kabbalah/Kabala is a discipline and school of thought concerned with the esoteric aspect of Rabbinic Judaism. It was systematized in 11th-13th century Hachmei Provence and Spain, and again after the Expulsion from Spain, in 16th century Ottoman Palestine...

 interpretations. He also writes that after spending forty years in the desert, the Israelites continued to eat the manna until they brought the Omer
Omer may refer to:*Omer , an ancient unit of measure used in the era of the ancient Temple in Jerusalem**Counting of the Omer, Jewish ritual during the forty-nine days between Passover and the Feast of Weeks*Omar, Omer is a variation of the name...

 offering on the second day of Passover
Passover is a Jewish holiday and festival. It commemorates the story of the Exodus, in which the ancient Israelites were freed from slavery in Egypt...

. From that day on, they no longer ate manna, but food that had grown in the Land of Israel
Land of Israel
The Land of Israel is the Biblical name for the territory roughly corresponding to the area encompassed by the Southern Levant, also known as Canaan and Palestine, Promised Land and Holy Land. The belief that the area is a God-given homeland of the Jewish people is based on the narrative of the...

. Since they now had to start worrying about their sustenance rather than having it handed to them each morning, the key on the challah is a form of prayer to God to open up the gates of livelihood.

Challah rolls

Shabbat Challah rolls, known as a bilkele or bulkele or bilkel or bulkel (plural: bilkelekh; ) is bread roll made with eggs, similar to a challah bun. It is often used as the bread for Shabbat meals or for meals during the Jewish holidays.

Mizrahi Jewish custom

Mizrahi Jews
Mizrahi Jews
Mizrahi Jews or Mizrahiyim, , also referred to as Adot HaMizrach are Jews descended from the Jewish communities of the Middle East, North Africa and the Caucasus...

 have no tradition of using a braided loaf. Instead, the Middle Eastern Mizrahis use a flat bread resembling pita
Pita or pitta is a round pocket bread widely consumed in many Middle Eastern, Mediterranean, and Balkan cuisines. It is prevalent in Greece, the Balkans the Levant, the Arabian Peninsula and Turkey. The "pocket" in pita bread is created by steam, which puffs up the dough...

. In some traditions twelve pitta breads are used, to represent the twelve loaves of showbread
Showbread , in the King James Version: shewbread, in a biblical or Jewish context, refers to the cakes or loaves of bread which were always present on a specially dedicated table, in the Temple in Jerusalem as an offering to God...

 in the Temple. They are arranged in two layers in the formation :••:, with the central two breads of the upper layer used for the blessing. Mizrahis of Central Asian-Bukharian descent eat a bread called leeposhka.

See also

  • Israeli cuisine
    Israeli cuisine
    Israeli cuisine comprises local dishes by Jews native to Israel and dishes brought to Israel by Jews from the Diaspora. Since before the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, and particularly since the late 1970s, an Israeli Jewish fusion cuisine has developed.Israeli cuisine has adopted,...

  • Jewish cuisine
    Jewish cuisine
    Jewish Cuisine is a collection of the different cooking traditions of the Jewish people worldwide. It is a diverse cuisine that has evolved over many centuries, shaped by Jewish dietary laws and Jewish Festival and Sabbath traditions...

  • Hefekranz
    Hefekranz or Hefezopf are breads from Switzerland, southern Germany, Austria and South Tyrol.The dough is made from sugar, flour, butter, eggs and yeast ....

  • Terumah
    Terumah is a Hebrew word, originally meaning lifted apart, but meaning donation in modern Hebrew. It can refer to:*Heave offerings - a type of sacrifice in the Hebrew Bible...

  • Tsoureki
    Tsoureki , çörek , panarët , choreg , or çörək is a sweet bread in the cuisines of the Balkans, Turkey, Azerbaijan, and Armenia. It is formed of braided strands of dough...

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