Shulchan Aruch cites challah-baking for Shabbos and Yom Tov as a mitzvah1
and a worthy practice “that should not be abandoned.”2 Indeed, it is a
time-honored custom for women to bake challah loaves for Shabbos and Yom
Tov,3 both because it enhances kavod Shabbos and kavod Yom Tov4 and
because it is an opportunity for them – by fulfilling the mitzvah of
hafrashas challah – to set aright Chavah’s sin on the first erev Shabbos of
Creation.5 For this reason, it is halachically preferable that a woman be
the one who separates the challah rather than a man.6
Challah separation: The procedure
Those who usually recite l’shem yichud before performing a mitzvah
should do so before performing this mitzvah as well.7
The woman should stand while the challah is being separated and the
blessing recited.8 If she did so while sitting, however, the challah
separation is still valid.9
The proper time to separate challah is before baking the dough. If,
however, she forgot to separate challah before baking the dough, she must do
so after the dough has been baked.10
A small piece of dough is removed from the mass. Preferably, the
designated piece should be at least a k’zayis (approx. 1 fl. oz.).11
The designated piece of dough should be held with the right hand. A
left-handed person should hold it in her left hand.12
Immediately before13 the separation of the designated piece – with no
talking in between – the blessing should be recited. The following is the
ברוך אתה ה' אלקינו מלך העולם אשר קדשנו במצותיו וצונו להפריש חלה
Some follow the custom of adding two words to the end of the blessing:
מן הסעה One who does not have this tradition should not add these two words.14
After the separation of the challah, it is proper to recite (in any
language): This piece is [separated for] challah.15
Challah separation: quantity of flour
Dough which contains more than 3 lb. and 11 oz. (approximately 14 cups )
of flour requires separation of challah with a blessing. Some poskim do not
permit a blessing to be recited unless at least 4 lb. and 15 oz.
(approximately 19 cups) of flour are used.18
Dough which contains more than 2 lb. and 10 oz. (approximately 10 cups) of
flour requires separation of challah, but no blessing is recited. Any lesser
amount of flour is exempt from challah separation altogether.
It is possible that dough which was originally kneaded with less than the
prescribed amount of flour would ultimately require separation of challah:
If several smaller pieces of dough are combined, they are halachically
considered as one. In the following three cases the doughs may be considered
as one dough:19
1. 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.
2. Even if the doughs are not [or were not] pressed together but are placed
in one deep utensil20 and are touching each other,21 they require
hafrashas 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 hafrashas challah at that point.
[An oven, a refrigerator or a freezer is not considered a utensil which
combines small doughs or baked goods into one big unit, particularly if the
items are individually wrapped.22 ]
3. 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.23 Note that even if the doughs have been baked into bread or cakes
and then wrapped together, they will require hafrashas challah at that point.
The following exception to the above rule applies: If there are two batters
which 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.
This 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
following three options, which are all l’chatchilah:
1. They can firmly press the doughs together.
2. They can place the doughs, while touching each other, in one deep utensil.
3. They can leave the doughs on the counter or table and completely enwrap
them in a towel or sheet.
After any one of these options is followed, challah may be separated as
1. Rama, O.C. 529:1.
2. Rama, O.C. 242:1 and Beiur Halachah (s.v. ve’hu).
3. While some women find it difficult to adhere to this custom regularly,
many still make a point of baking challos for the Shabbos after Pesach, for
it is a tradition that baking challos on that Shabbos is a segulah for
livelihood. 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. See Ta’amei ha-Minhagim 596-597 for the origin of this
4. Rama, O.C. 242:1; 529:1.
5. Mishnah Berurah 242:6.
6. Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 38:8. See another reason in Bartenura, Shabbos 2:6.
7. Kaf ha-Chayim, O.C. 457:12. The appropriate nusach is quoted there.
Some women have a custom to give charity before performing this mitzvah, as
they do before lighting candles; Ben Ish Chai (Lech Lecha, 6)
9. Mishnah Berurah 8:2. See Magen Avraham 8:1 and Shulchan Aruch ha-Rav
8:3, who allow separating challah and reciting the blessing while sitting.
10. Mishnah Berurah 457:5.
11. Rama, Y.D. 322:5.
12. Mishnah Berurah 206:18.
13. Rambam, Hilchos Bikurim 5:11; Chochmas Adam (Sha’arei Tzedek 14:32);
Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 35:1; Mikdash Me’at 328:1. Some have a custom to
separate challah while reciting the blessing, while others separate challah
after reciting the blessing; see Piskei Teshuvos 457, note 3. See Mikraei
Kodesh, Pesach, vol. 2, pgs. 73-74, for an explanation of this issue.
14. Kaf ha-Chayim 457:10.
15. Rav Akiva Eiger, Y.D. 328:1; Chochmas Adam (Sha’arei Tzedek 14:32).
Many women, however, do not recite this statement; Ha’amek Sha’eilah 73:3.
When challah is being separated without a blessing, this declaration is even
more significant; see Imrei Shalom 3:60.
16. Water and other ingredients are not included in the minimum amount.
17. Our measurements are based on Gold Medal’s estimate that a 5 lb. bag of
flour will fill about 19 cups, or about 3.75 cups per pound. Bear in mind,
however, that there is no precise conversion between the weight and volume
of flour. The temperature, methods of storage, type of flour, how one fills
the measuring cup and whether it is sifted, can all impact on this amount.
18. See the various opinions in Shemiras Shabbos K’hilchasah 42:9 and
Challah K’hilchasah 5:2.
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. Rav
S.Z. Auerbach (Shemiras Shabbos K’hilchasah 42, note 39) disagrees.
22. See Beiur ha-Gra, Y.D. 325:3 (concerning an oven). See also Machazeh
Eliyahu 111 and Shemiras Shabbos K’hilchasah 42, note 39.