The following is a discussion of Halachic topics related to the Parsha of the week.
For final rulings, consult your Rav.
THE MITZVAH OF SEPARATING CHALLAH
t is a time honored custom for women to bake challos for
Shabbos, both because it enhances kavod Shabbos(1) and because
it is an opportunity for them to set aright Chavah's sin on the
first erev Shabbos of Creation(2). For this reason, it is
halachically preferable that a woman be the one who separates
the challah rather than a man.
Although Shulchan Aruch cites challah-baking as a worthy custom
"that should not be abandoned(3)", many women find it difficult
to bake Shabbos challos on a steady basis. But even some women
who do not adhere to the custom regularly make a point of baking
challah for the Shabbos after Pesach, for it is a tradition that
baking challos immediately after Pesach is a segulah for
parnasah. Many follow the additional custom of baking challah in
the form of a key or pressing a key into the dough (schlisel
challah) to symbolize "the key of parnasah"(4). Let us,
therefore, review some of the halachos pertaining to separating
THE PROCEDURE OF SEPARATION:
Those who usually recite l'shem yichud before performing a
mitzvah should do so before performing this mitzvah as well(5).
The woman should stand while the challah is being separated and
the blessing recited(6). If she did so while sitting, however,
the challah separation is still valid(7).
The proper time to separate challah is before baking the dough
while the batter is raw. If, however, one forgot to separate
challah before baking the dough, she must do so after the dough
has been baked(8).
A small piece of dough is removed from the mass. Preferably, the
designated piece should be at least a k'zayis(9) (approx. 1 oz.).
The designated piece of dough should be held with the right
hand. A left-handed person should hold it in her left hand(10).
Immediately before the separation of the designated piece(11) -
with no talking in between - the blessing should be recited.
The following is the correct text:
Some follow the custom of adding two words to the end of the
blessing: "Min Hae'esah". One who does not have this tradition
should not add these two words(12).
After the separation of the challah, it is proper to recite (in
any language]: This piece is [separated for] challah(13).
DISPOSING OF THE CHALLAH
The designated piece should be burned until it is no longer
edible. The ashes may then be discarded. Under extenuating
circumstances, when the challah cannot be burned, some poksim
permit carefully wrapping the challah in a bag and throwing it
in the garbage(14). In such a case, less than a k'zayis should
The piece of challah that was separated is forbidden to be
eaten. In effect, it is a non-kosher food. Care should be taken
that it does not touch the rest of the baked goods, either in or
out of the oven.
If the challah is burned inside the oven [in which other items
are being baked] it should be left tightly wrapped in silver
foil so that steam from the non-kosher challah does not
penetrate the oven walls. B'dieved, however, if it was not
wrapped, the oven does not become non kosher and does not need
to undergo a koshering process(15). If, however, the challah
comes into physical contact with the other baked goods while
they are in the oven, the baked goods may become non-kosher(16).
A rav must be consulted.
THE MINIMUM AMOUNT OF FLOUR(17) WHICH REQUIRES SEPARATION OF
A dough which contains less than 10 cups of flour (approx. two
and a half to three pounds) is completely exempt from challah.
A dough which contains more than 10 cups of flour requires
separation of challah, but no blessing is recited.
A dough which contains more than 16 cups of flour (over 4
pounds) requires separation of challah with a blessing(18).
It is possible that a dough which was originally baked with
less than the prescribed amount of flour would ultimately
require separation of challah: If several small doughs are
combined, they are halachically considered as one dough. In the
following three cases the doughs may be considered as one
If the doughs are [or were previously] pressed together tightly
enough so that when they are separated they will stick to one
another, they are considered as one dough and challah must be
separated from one of them.
Even if the doughs are not [or were not] pressed together but
are placed in one deep utensil(20) and are touching each
other(21), they require hafroshas challah and challah must be
separated from one of them. Note that even if the doughs have
been baked into bread or cakes and then placed together in one
utensil, they will require hafroshas challah at that point.
Even if the doughs are not [or were not] pressed together and
are not [or were not] placed in one utensil, but are lying on a
counter or on a table and are touching each other and are
completely wrapped up in a cloth, they are considered as one
dough and challah must be separated from one of them(22). Note
that even if the doughs have been baked into bread or cakes and
then wrapped together, they will require hafroshas challah at
The following exceptions to the above rule apply:
If the two doughs have different sets of ingredients and thus
taste different from each other, or even if they taste the same
but were made by two different people, or even if they were made
by one person but she does not want to mix them or combine them,
or even if she does not care whether they are mixed but the
flours are from grain grown in two separate years - then they
are not considered as one dough, even if they are pressed
together or touching each other in the same utensil.
An oven, a refrigerator or a freezer is not considered as a
utensil which combines small doughs or baked goods into one big
unit, particularly if the items are individually wrapped(23).
The above information is useful for women who are baking
several doughs, each of which contains less than the minimum
amount of flour. Women who would like to incur the obligation
and fulfill the mitzvah of challah have one of the three
following options. They are all l'chatchilah:
They could firmly press the doughs together;
They could place the doughs, while touching each other, in one
They could leave the doughs on the counter or table and
completely enwrap them in a towel or sheet.
After one of these options is followed, challah may be
separated as described above.
1. Rama O.C. 242:1.
2. Mishnah Berurah 242:6.
3. Rama and Beiur Halachah, ibid.
4. See Ta'amei ha-Minhagim 596-597 for the origin of this custom.
5. Kaf ha-Chayim O.C. 457:12. The appropriate nusach is quoted
14. Chazon Ish (oral ruling quoted in Practical Guide to Kashrus,
pg. 101); Teshuvos R' Yonson Shteif 276; Minchas Yitzchak 4:13
15. Since dough, generally, is not liquid and hardly emits steam.
Even if it will, it is negligible and will be bateil beshishim.
16. See Leket ha-Omer 14, note 3.
17. Water and other ingredients are not included in the minimum
18. Ruling of Harav T.P. Frank which is followed by many women.
Some poskim maintain that a blessing should not be recited
unless five pounds of flour are used - Harav Y.E. Henkin (Eidus
19. Based on Mishnah Berurah 457:7 and Beiur Halachah.
20. The utensil must be sufficiently deep so that no dough [or
baked item] will protrude from it.
21. Minchas Yitzchak 8:109 maintains that even if the doughs are
in individual pans or bags and the pans are touching each other
[and they are placed in one big deep utensil] the doughs are
considered combined. Harav S.Z. Auerbach (Shemiras Shabbos
K'hilchasah 42, note 39) disagrees.
22. Beiur Halachah 457:1.
23. See Beiur ha-Gra Y.D. 325:3 (concerning an oven). See also
Machzeh Eliyahu 111 and Shemiras Shabbos K'hilchasah 42, note 39.