Going Kosher – Separating Challah – Chapter 12

Laws of Challah

1) Traditionally, special loaves of bread are baked before the onset of the Sabbath in order to honor that holy day.[1] Since the mitzvah (commandment) of challah is performed on the dough of these loaves, the loaves themselves have come to be known as challah. However, the challah is actually the small piece of dough which is separated from the main body of the dough as a gift-offering to G-d.[2] In commanding this mitzvah, the Torah states,[3] “Speak to the children of Israel and say unto them, ‘When you enter the land to which I am bringing you, when you eat of the bread of the land, you shall set apart a gift-offering to HaShem. From the first of your kneadings you shall set aside a challah as a gift-offering; just as you set aside a gift-offering from the threshing floor, so shall you set this aside. From the first of your kneadings you shall give to HaShem a gift-offering, for all your generations.’”

2) From the Torah, the mitzvah of challah only applies to dough kneaded within the land of Israel during a time when the vast majority of Jews reside there. This being the case, in our times, the mitzvah of challah is only rabbinical in origin, even within the land of Israel.[4]

3) The rabbis further ordained that even outside the land of Israel, challah should be separated from the dough and that it too should be done with the recital of the appropriate blessing,[5] so that the mitzvah of challah should not be forgotten by the Jewish people.[6]

4) The Talmud[7] relates that when G-d created Adam, He formed him from the dust of the earth, similar to a person separating challah from the dough. Thus mankind is compared to challah. Since, by eating the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and enticing her husband to do so, Eve brought about a downfall for all mankind,[8] therefore, women have a special affinity to this mitzvah, because it is specifically the mitzvah of challah which rectifies this.[9]

5) It is customary for women to bake bread in honor of the Sabbath on the day before the Sabbath.[10] This is especially pertinent because the sin of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil occurred on Friday. If, due to time constraints, it is impossible to bake on Friday during the day, she may still keep the custom by baking on Thursday evening. This is because according to Torah[11], each day begins on the evening before. This being the case, Friday, which is the sixth day of the week, actually begins on Thursday evening.

6) The mitzvah of challah only pertains to the five following grains: Wheat, barley, spelt, oats and rye.[12] A person who bakes rice bread, millet bread or soy bread need not separate challah.

7) If the amount of dough is less than approximately 2.31 lbs/1.05 kilograms,[13] challah need not be separated. If it is from 2.31 lbs/1.05 kilograms to 3.64 lbs/1.65 kilograms, challah should be separated without a blessing. If it is 3.65 lbs/1.66 kilograms[14] or more, challah should be separated with the appropriate blessing. These figures are approximations and there are varying opinions in regard to the exact amount required. Inquire of your rabbi for his opinion.

Blessing for Challah

8) The prevalent Ashkenazic custom is to recite the following blessing when separating challah:

ברוך אתה ה’ אלקינו מלך העולם אשר קדשנו במצותיו וצונו להפריש חלה.

Blessed are you HaShem, our G-d, King of the universe, who sanctified us through His commandments and commanded us to separate challah.[15]

The prevalent Sephardic custom is to recite the following blessing:

ברוך אתה ה’ אלקינו מלך העולם אשר קדשנו במצותיו וצונו להפריש תרומה.

Blessed are you HaShem, our G-d, King of the universe, who sanctified us through His commandments and commanded us to separate a gift-offering.[16]

However, some communities have the custom of reciting the following blessing:

ברוך אתה ה’ אלקינו מלך העולם אשר קדשנו במצותיו וצונו להפריש חלה תרומה.

Blessed are you HaShem, our G-d, King of the universe, who sanctified us through His commandments and commanded us to separate challah as a gift-offering.[17]

Check with your rabbi for the appropriate blessing.

9) Even though the Torah does not require any particular amount of challah to be separated from the dough, so that even the size of a barley grain is sufficient,[18] nonetheless, today, the custom is to separate no less than the size of an olive.[19] However, if one dedicates the entire mass of dough and declares it to be challah, he has not performed the mitzvah. Rather, there must always be some dough left over.[20]

10) Challah can be taken once the dough has been kneaded to the degree that it has coagulated into one unified mass.[21]

11) Though, optimally, challah should be separated from dough, nonetheless, if one failed to do so, it may be separated from the baked loaf.[22]

12) Originally, in bygone times, the challah was given to the Cohanim-the “Priestly Caste”, as a gift-offering to   G-d.[23] However, in our times, the custom is to burn it.[24] Since it is separated for G-d, it may not be eaten.[25]

13) Even though the challah is a gift-offering to G-d which was given to the Cohanim, nevertheless, Cohanim too must separate challah from their dough. However, during the times that the challah was given to the Cohanim, the Cohen was not obliged to give it to a different Cohen. Rather, he could keep it for himself. As stated above, in our times, the custom is to burn it.[26]

14) A woman who is niddah, i.e. impure due to her menstrual cycle, may still perform the mitzvah of separating the challah.[27]

15) Challah may not be separated on the Sabbath. Moreover, it may not be separated on Yom Tov, except from dough that was kneaded during that day of Yom Tov[28] with the intent of baking it and consuming it that day.

16) Even though challah is separated both in the land of Israel and outside of it, nonetheless, there is a greater stringency regarding challah separated in the land of Israel compared to challah separated outside the land of Israel. In the land of Israel one may not eat of the dough until challah has been separated from it.[29] On the other hand, outside of the land of Israel, one may eat of it even though challah has not yet been separated from it.[30] This being the case, outside the land of Israel, if one forgot to separate challah from the dough and Shabbat or Yom Tov already commenced, she should set aside a slice of bread in order to separate it as challah after Shabbat or Yom Tov, and the remainder of the bread may be eaten. However, in the land of Israel this is not possible. Rather, no one may partake of the bread until Shabbat or Yom Tov ends and after the challah is separated. Moreover, the challah is muktza and may not be handled for the duration of Shabbat or Yom Tov.[31]

Procedure of Separating Challah 

1) Decide from which part of the dough the challah will be taken.

2) The blessing should be recited while standing.[32] However, if it was recited while sitting, the blessing is still valid.[33]

3) Recite the appropriate blessing.

4) Separate the challah from the dough.

5) Burn the challah. This may be done on the stove top or in the oven. It is best not to burn the challah in the oven while the bread is baking in it.[34]If burning the challah is not an option, it should be double-wrapped in paper or aluminum foil and discarded in the trash.[35]



[1] רמ”א או”ח רמב.

[2] שו”ע יו”ד שכב:א.

[3] Numbers 15:18

[4] שו”ע יו”ד שכב:ב, וראה ש”ך יו”ד שכב:ד.

[5] רמב”ם בכורים ו:ז.

[6] שו”ע יו”ד שכב:ג.

[7] ירושלמי שבת ב:ו.

[8] Genesis 3:6

[9] ירושלמי שם.

[10] רמ”א או”ח רמב.

[11] Genesis 1:5

[12] שו”ע יו”ד שכד:א.

[13] ספר ארץ ישראל, ערך חלה ב.

[14] שיעורי תורה ג:ג.

[15] רמ”א יו”ד שכח:א.

[16] שו”ע יו”ד שכח:א.

[17] ש”ך יו”ד שכח:א.

[18] שו”ע יו”ד שכב:א, רמ”א יו”ד שכב:ה.

[19] רמ”א יו”ד שם.

[20] שו”ע יו”ד שכב:א.

[21] שו”ע יו”ד שכז:ג.

[22] שו”ע יו”ד שכז:ה.

[23] שו”ע יו”ד שכב:א.

[24] רמ”א יו”ד שכב:ה.

[25] רמ”א יו”ד שם.

[26] שו”ע המקוצר, הלכות חלה-עיני יצחק סי’ סו.

[27] רמב”ם הל’ בכורים ה:יב.

[28] שו”ע או”ח שלט:ד.

[29] שו”ע יו”ד שכג:א.

[30] שו”ע יו”ד שם.

[31] שו”ע או”ח תקו:ג.

[32] שו”ע הרב מז:ז, נט:ד, קסז:ט, רו:ג, תלב:ו,תעה:ח, תקצב:ז.

[33] פת”ש יו”ד שכח:ב.

[34] שו”ע יו”ד שכב:ד ורמ”א שם.

[35] מנחת יצחק ד:יג.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


*