Ask the Expert: Taking Challah

Why do we burn up a little piece of dough when we make bread?

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Barukh ata adonai eloheinu melekh haolam asher kidshanu b'mitzvotav v'tzivanu lehafrish challah min ha'issah.

(You can learn more about the mechanics of taking challah here, along with a wonderful challah recipe.) Traditionally, taking challah is a mitzvah that has been associated with women. Some say this is because women have typically been the ones in the kitchen, cooking in keeping with Judaism’s dietary laws. Others trace the connection between women and taking challah to the first Jewish woman, Sarah. When Abraham welcomes the traveling angels in Genesis 18 he prepares a large feast for them, but instructs Sarah to bake the bread: "Quick, get three seah of choice flour! Knead and make cakes!" From this and other passages the rabbis of the Talmud explain that taking challah is one of the three mitzvot set aside specifically for women, along with lighting Shabbat candles , and observing the rules of menstrual purity. (That said, it’s perfectly fine for a man who is baking to take challah.)

Talking so much about taking challah is really making me hungry. I better get baking!

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