Cutting the Challah
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- This topic has 52 replies, 18 voices, and was last updated 13 years, 12 months ago by WolfishMusings.
June 5, 2009 2:48 pm at 2:48 pm #589888
There are two reasons for making a cut in the Challah before the blessing. One reason is technical, the other mystical.
The technical reason is that we are supposed to minimize the time gap between making a blessing on food and eating it. So really when eating bread, we should have a slice cut and ready to eat before we make the blessing. But on Shabbos we can’t do that, because on Shabbos the bread we bless must be whole, not cut. Shabbos is the day that brought wholeness and completion to creation, and so we honor it by blessing on complete loaves.
So we have a conflict. On the one hand we are supposed to cut the bread before the blessing so as not to delay between blessing and eating, but on the other hand we can’t cut the bread before the blessing, because then it won’t be whole. So we compromise. We don’t actually slice the bread, but we make a small cut so as to quicken the slicing but still leave the loaf whole. This is the ideal way to deal with two conflicting forces. Come up with a third option that satisfies both.
That’s the technical reason. Here’s the mystical one. By making a small cut on the bread, we are actually placing G-d’s name onto the Challah.
The holiest of divine names is Yud-Heh-Vav-Heh. It is this name that we form on the Challah. The little cut is in the shape of a Yud, a small line. The five fingers on each of our two hands that hold the Challah are the two Hehs, which is the fifth letter in the Hebrew alphabet. And the Challah itself is in the shape of a Vav, a straight line between the two Hehs. So as we grasp the Challah and make the blessing, we literally invoke G-d’s name onto our bread.
These two explanations 1.compromising between two conflicting demands, and 2.stamping G-d’s name on our food – represent the two most important elements to a Jewish home, harmony and holiness. Harmony means creating balance in our relationships with our fellow, holiness means enhancing our relationship with G-d. The Shabbos meal is the perfect scene to work on both.June 5, 2009 3:23 pm at 3:23 pm #647588tzippiMember
Very nice. I do try to make challah with a bracha every week and they’re rising right now. Where’s it from?June 5, 2009 3:26 pm at 3:26 pm #647589JayMatt19Participant
>>The technical reason is that we are supposed to minimize the time gap between making a blessing on food and eating it. So really when eating bread, we should have a slice cut and ready to eat before we make the blessing.<<
This is not 100% accurate. There is a din of shalem (whole) when making brachos. In cases where one can make a bracha on a whole item they should. If one has a pear which they will be slicing into pieces, they should make the bracha on the whole pear then slice off a piece and take a bite. Such an action is not considered a hefsek (a coconut would obviously be a hefsek, as would peeling an orange).
(This halacha was seen in the sefer V’zos HaBracha, and checked again by me prior to this post)
As such, on a loaf of bread, even during the week one should make their bracha on the whole loaf, then cut their slice.June 5, 2009 3:38 pm at 3:38 pm #647590
jay, youre right
i am aware of the din of Shaleim, and considered editing that part out, im not sure why i didnt.
but why are we not nohiag to make a small cut in the bread before the Brocha during the week to minimize the hefsek? maybe we should?June 5, 2009 3:47 pm at 3:47 pm #647591JayMatt19Participant
I waited to see if you’d reply before shutting down for shabbos.
Personally I do make a small cut before slicing the challa. I have seen opinions who are against this practice, as they feel this will add hefsek (i.e. the time looking for where you made the small cut)June 5, 2009 3:57 pm at 3:57 pm #647592cherrybimParticipant
There is also an inyan to start cutting the bread on the crustiest part. So to avoid time delay after the brocha is said to look where to cut on the crustiest part, we indicate the spot on the bread with the knife before the brocha is said: during the week by cutting and on Shabbos with scratching (not cutting), on the bread in order to keep it whole.June 5, 2009 4:02 pm at 4:02 pm #647593
So we compromise. We don’t actually slice the bread, but we make a small cut so as to quicken the slicing but still leave the loaf whole. This is the ideal way to deal with two conflicting forces. Come up with a third option that satisfies both.
And then I end up spending far more time looking for the cut I made than if I had just left it alone.
And for that reason, I actually stopped cutting the challah before hamotzi about a year ago. I realized that it was doing more harm than good.
The WolfJune 5, 2009 4:06 pm at 4:06 pm #647594
your logic is good
i prefer to follow the instructions of our Rabbonim, and the Minhag of my people, Klal YisroelJune 5, 2009 4:09 pm at 4:09 pm #647595
“And then I end up spending far more time looking for the cut I made than if I had just left it alone.
And for that reason, I actually stopped cutting the challah before hamotzi about a year ago. I realized that it was doing more harm than good.”
Which just underscores why when one looks into the reasons for a minhag or a halacha they should do so only academically. Your little mind decided that this is the only reason and therefore you feel it is right to discontinue a minhag that was started by much greater Yidden than yourself? The minhag survives the generations until it reaches you?
Please show respect for real minhagim and do not try to reevaluate what you may not understand.June 5, 2009 4:21 pm at 4:21 pm #647596Mayan_DvashParticipant
What about the Pull-Apart challahs?June 5, 2009 4:30 pm at 4:30 pm #647597JewessMember
Feivel, I love the mystical explanation.
How would one explain the Sephardic custom–we break the challah with our hand, instead of cutting it with a knife.June 5, 2009 4:37 pm at 4:37 pm #647598
I didn’t disrespect the minhag. I did not say that anyone who follows it is wrong. I simply decided that, for me, for the reasons presented, following the minhag* was defeating it’s very purpose. For others who follow the minhag for other reasons, it may very well still make sense to do so. But I started observing it for the reason presented — and when it no longer made sense for me to do so, I stopped.
* It should be pointed out that this is not some ancient family minhag that I stopped following. This is a practice that I started observing on my own – not at the instruction of a Rav or any other official. Since I started it completely of my own volition and for a specific reason, and the reason is no longer valid (for me), then I should be able to stop it on my own as well.June 5, 2009 4:41 pm at 4:41 pm #647599
i am familiar with that minhag, its because that was the first part to be fully baked.
however there is also an inyan to take the part that is most desirable to you, which is not always the crustiest part. probably should ask a shaila but i usually cut at the most desirable part (such as the highest sesame seed concentration)June 5, 2009 4:49 pm at 4:49 pm #647600
Wolf (and everyone else):
Before you decide whether you need to keep a minhag, first find out if your family really has the minhag or its just something “picked up along the way”, as “a nice extra”.
Personally, I do not have the minhag to make a cut in the challah. As with many things why I got married, my Rov told me there is no reason and it is detrimental to “add” for the sake of following other’s minhagim (granted, I have some strange ones, but after some research they seem to be mostly Yekke/GRA based).
Of course, if you do have the minhag, you should keep it even if you don’t understand. In your case, Wolf, if you do learn it is your family’s minhag, might I suggest making the cut and then starting to cut from wherever you want if its not seen right away?
Feivel: If you are eating a Shalem during the week, you are supposed to make a nearly full cut before the brocha & break off afterwards. I believe this is due to halachos of “Shalaym” for Lechem Mishna being different than those of Bracha, but my memory may be going on me.June 5, 2009 4:55 pm at 4:55 pm #647601
Your little mind decided
And, squeak, I’ll thank you not to issue ad hominem insults.
I’ll be more than happy to debate the issue with you, but you don’t have to insult. It’s not nice. I make it a point not to insult anyone, even those I vehemently disagree with.
The WolfJune 5, 2009 5:06 pm at 5:06 pm #647602areivimzehlazehParticipant
feivel- the synopsis at the end of your first post made a very big impression on me- I will not be able look at challa without remembering these 2 key points in our lives. Thank you- this is a great boost (and a reminder- every shabbos)
PS- agree with squeak & feivel. Isn’t this (one of the) reason we’re not given the explanation to certain mitzvos?June 5, 2009 5:18 pm at 5:18 pm #647603jphoneMember
“And the Challah itself is in the shape of a Vav, a straight line between the two Hehs.”
So during the month of Tishrei when everyone bakes round challos we ignore the letter vav?June 5, 2009 5:19 pm at 5:19 pm #647604JotharMember
I heard from my rav that if you make a small cut and you can’t see it, you’re better off not making a cut at all. Wolfish is correct, according to my rav. Either make a bigger cut or skip it.June 5, 2009 8:28 pm at 8:28 pm #647605
Wolf, if you do learn it is your family’s minhag
Well, therein lies the tale. You see, I’m a ba’al teshuva – my father, my grandfathers and my most of my great-grandfathers (all of whom died before I was born) were all not frum. As such, I have no “family minhagim.”
Therefore, I adopt minhagim based on whether there is a reason to do so. I agree that if I had some ancient family minhag to do so, I probably would have continued to doing so for the sake of the minhag. But since I don’t have that, I simply adopt the minhagim I wish to.
The WolfJune 5, 2009 8:35 pm at 8:35 pm #647606qawsMember
I have seen people cut the end of the challah off and put it to the side and then cut the rest. The weird thing is that they don’t serve that end piece. Is there a minhag to do this?June 5, 2009 8:42 pm at 8:42 pm #647607
i had the same question
its not my pshat, though i like it
that sounds familiar
ad hominem is a term from formal debating rules.
you clearly enjoy utilizing “superior” logic and a good debate. nice hobby.
this forum is not a debating society, however. and some people like to take whatever steps necessary to point out, logically and emotionally, anti-Torah values, no matter how logically they are presented.June 5, 2009 8:44 pm at 8:44 pm #647608SJSinNYCMember
GAW, I recently learnt that my husband’s grandparents have the minhag to not eat gebrakts on Pesach, but his parents abandoned that. We asked our Rav and he said we are not required to take it back on.June 5, 2009 8:53 pm at 8:53 pm #647609
“I have seen people cut the end of the challah off and put it to the side and then cut the rest. The weird thing is that they don’t serve that end piece. Is there a minhag to do this?”
they do this because they dont like the end piece, and feel it is not a nice piece to serve to others as well. its not a MinhagJune 5, 2009 10:19 pm at 10:19 pm #647610
In my family we FIGHT over the end pieces. Everyone wants the shpitz of the challah. It has the most crust, what could be bad??????
“And the Challah itself is in the shape of a Vav,”
Not on Yom tov, it isn’t. It’s usually round. So how does this idea fit into that really fascinating and meaningful concept?June 6, 2009 9:51 pm at 9:51 pm #647611
Making an incision in the bread it not just a minhag, it is a Halacha in Shulchan Aruch.
There is a minhag not to eat the end of a loaf because it is either kashe l’shikcha or other reasons.June 7, 2009 5:10 am at 5:10 am #647612qawsMember
I believe that there is a halacha that if you make the cut in the challah deep enough that if you would hold the challah from one end and the challah would break, then its not considered a shaleim.June 7, 2009 5:17 am at 5:17 am #647613
“There is a minhag not to eat the end of a loaf because it is either kashe l’shikcha or other reasons”
So why is the end piece of the challah from a bris so desirable that people are giving it to pregnant women?June 7, 2009 6:17 am at 6:17 am #647614JotharMember
Round challahs- from aish.com:
Round challahs are unique to the High Holiday season. Some say they represent a crown that reflects our coronating God as the King of the world.
Others suggest that the circular shape points to the cyclical nature of the year. The Hebrew word for year is “shana,” which comes from the Hebrew word “repeat.” Perhaps the circle illustrates how the years just go round and round.June 7, 2009 1:30 pm at 1:30 pm #647615
Thanks, Jothar. It’s funny, we only used to see round challahs for Yomim Noraim, but now they are available for Succos, Shavuos (I almost said Pesach, LOL), too. The idea of the complete circle of life repeating, of course, is nothing new, but it makes a lot of sense here. I especially like the idea of the word shana coming from “repeat” (like “v’shinantam”). That really is a sensible thought that never really occurred to me.June 7, 2009 2:32 pm at 2:32 pm #647616mamashtakahMember
“In my family we FIGHT over the end pieces. Everyone wants the shpitz of the challah. It has the most crust, what could be bad??????”
My daughter loves the end pieces. One she shmeers through the salt, and the other she shmeers with humous.June 7, 2009 3:38 pm at 3:38 pm #647617chaimdgMember
So we have a conflict. On the one hand we are supposed to cut the bread before the blessing so as not to delay between blessing and eating, but on the other hand we can’t cut the bread before the blessing, because then it won’t be whole.
what I have seen to deal with this is during the week the bread or chala is sliced but not detached the bracha is said and then cut all the way or broken off. On shabbos the sighn is made about 1/3 of the challa thebracha is made and then a slice is cut from the sighn to the middle eaten by the one who made the bracha and the cut for other members of family and geusts don’t forget first give the wife and then whoever.
the sefardim break the chala because just like no metal in the mizbaach (alter)June 7, 2009 4:01 pm at 4:01 pm #647618
the sefardim break the chala because just like no metal in the mizbaach (alter)
I’m not sure I understand what you’re saying here. Can you please elaborate?
The WolfJune 7, 2009 4:23 pm at 4:23 pm #647619
it seems clear he means that they break it with their hands, as opposed to using a metal knife; just as metal implements (similar to weapons) were not allowed to be used in making the Mizbayach.June 7, 2009 10:05 pm at 10:05 pm #647620
I’ve never heard of any segula in eating the end piece of a bris challa, but the “other reasons” I mentioned would not apply to a woman.June 8, 2009 1:45 pm at 1:45 pm #647621
Read the Rema there. The “halacha” doesn’t apply on shabbos.
Many people cut the first slice from pull apart challos.June 8, 2009 2:44 pm at 2:44 pm #647622
Wolf – I’m sorry you took my phrasing as a personal attack. It was not meant so. I would use the same term to describe myself or any other member of this generation in comparison to the sages of generations prior. It would behoove us to remember this when we think that something they did “does not make sense to us”.
I have yet to hear someone read a page of Einstein, lehavdil, and announce that he made a mistake. Even people who read the whole paper often have no intelligent comments to make. Passing judgement on a minhag or halacha is far more ludicrous.June 8, 2009 2:59 pm at 2:59 pm #647623
“There is a minhag not to eat the end of a loaf because it is either kashe l’shikcha or other reasons”
AFAIK, there is no actual mekor for this, though I have heard it repeated often. At least, I can’t remember any mekor.
oomis, kasha l’shikcha is not a problem for women.June 8, 2009 3:23 pm at 3:23 pm #647624
“I’ve never heard of any segula in eating the end piece of a bris challa, but the “other reasons” I mentioned would not apply to a woman”
And I have heard it all my life. Give the shpitz to a pregnant woman at the bris so she should have a boy, and give some wine from the kos of a chosson and kallah’ sheva brachos wine tp single people, as a segulah for getting married. Whether or not one believes in segulahs as having kochos, it is undeniable that a lot of people are doing these things.
Squeak, why is kasha l’shikcha not a problem for women? Also, it there an actual halacha about this inyan (regarding men, I mean)? I never heard of it until I saw it here. It’s very interesting, and I would like to know of the source for it.June 8, 2009 3:51 pm at 3:51 pm #647625
The gemara talks about many things that are kasha l’shikcha at the end of Maseches Huryyos and in several other places. I am sure that there are other sources as well, but I can’t name any. In any case, I never saw this one mentioned in the list. If someone can cite a source for it I would make a retraction.June 8, 2009 7:02 pm at 7:02 pm #647626
Wolf – I’m sorry you took my phrasing as a personal attack. It was not meant so.
Apology accepted. 🙂
The WolfJune 8, 2009 7:45 pm at 7:45 pm #647627
it seems clear he means that they break it with their hands, as opposed to using a metal knife; just as metal implements (similar to weapons) were not allowed to be used in making the Mizbayach.
Thank you for the explanation. However, I fail to see the analogy. The bread isn’t compared to the Altar, the table itself is. Indeed, items brought on the Altar had metal involved in their processing (the knife for schechita, for starters). For the analogy to be true, they would be okay to use a knife on the bread, but have to ensure that their tables aren’t made via a process involving metal.
The WolfJune 8, 2009 7:57 pm at 7:57 pm #647628SJSinNYCMember
Ames, I’m flabbergasted. YOU are not a rabbi? After all this time…June 8, 2009 8:02 pm at 8:02 pm #647629
Wolf, they did not use a metal knife in the BH”M. It was a reed that they used for shechita.June 8, 2009 9:15 pm at 9:15 pm #647630
Sorry Squeak, they certainly did use metal knives.June 10, 2009 4:08 am at 4:08 am #647634cherrybimParticipant
ames:”..I always heard that we don’t use a knife because of the hefsek issue. If someone wants to use a knife, they only use it after they themselves have eaten the first bite after the beracha.”
Ames, please don’t take this the wrong way, but I think what you heard is a baba maise with no basis in halacha.June 10, 2009 1:35 pm at 1:35 pm #647635
PM, according to Mishnayos you are wrong, so would you please state your source?June 10, 2009 2:40 pm at 2:40 pm #647636
I believe you are refering to the Mishna in Chulin on Daf 15b? If so, please see the gemorah on 3a first. If not, I would like to see your additional Marr’e Makom.June 10, 2009 4:03 pm at 4:03 pm #647637
GAW, I will look at what you referred me to. But the mishna I am thinking of is in Tomid. I’ll get back to you.June 10, 2009 5:34 pm at 5:34 pm #647638
Squeak: The Gemorra Pesachim 66A describes people bringing their own knives from home for the Korban Pesach. Also the first Tosafos in the 5th Perek of Zevachim says that a reed “could” be used, but generally a kli shareis was used.
What is your source???June 10, 2009 8:37 pm at 8:37 pm #647639
I’ll add the Rambam Maase HaKorbans 4:7 writes that l’chatchila a knife that is a kli shares should be used, b’dieved even a sharpened reed is suficient.
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