The Importance of Challah

June 15, 2012Hilda R. Glazer

This week’s Torah portion includes the story of sending the scouts to Canaan and a number of laws about sacrifices and communal and individual wrongs.

One of the things that I often wondered about was the origin of the challah. In this week’s portion is the answer. One of the offerings listed in Numbers 15 is that of the first dough – the challah. "The Women’s Torah Commentary" (p. 882) noted that the word challah is Hebrew for loaf and was derived from the verbal root ch-w-l, “to be round.”

Challah is a significant part of holiday rituals in the home and in the synagogue. When I have time, I bake challah on Thursday night. The recipe is an easy one that I was given by a friend many years ago. I have made this challah with my children, my religious school classes, and my sisters. My sister now makes this challah, as does her daughter. It has become a family ritual with round loaves for the High Holidays and braided loaves during the year. And if I do not have time to bake, we have a wonderful kosher bakery nearby.

Challah is part of Shabbat in our home; I enjoy saying the Motzi over bread that I have made. It adds to the flavor of the meal. And when my sisterhood friends and I do an oneg, we bring the challah. We offer the gifts of our work in kneading and braiding and baking this special loaf and draw our families and friends into the circle of the meal and the offering. It is said that no holiday is complete without a meal. At the conclusion of Shabbat services, our rabbis invite the children of the congregation to the bima to hold the challah while the blessing is chanted and then to pull the challah apart. It is fun to watch and at the same time teaches the next generation the tradition and the joy.

I hope that your challah on this Shabbat is sweet and links you to the traditions of the dough offering and the joys of Shabbat.

Hilda R. Glazer, EdD is president of WRJ's Central District.

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