The first portion of your kneading, you shall separate as a dough offering (challah)…
In all your generations, give the first of your kneading as an elevated gift to God.
The Separation of Challah is one of the 613 mitzvot (Divine commandments) that constitute the body and soul of Jewish life. Replete with spiritual meaning, it is one of the three primary mitzvot of the Jewish woman and has a far-reaching effect on the mind and heart of the one who fulfills it, on her household, and on the very character of her home. For more than a hundred generations, Jewish women throughout the world have fulfilled this beautiful and life-transforming mitzvah.
When the Jewish people first entered and settled the land of Israel, one of the many gifts they were commanded to give to the Kohanim, the priestly tribe who served in the Holy Temple, was ‘challah’ — a portion of dough separated from their kneading bowl every time they baked bread.
Challah… expresses the belief that all of our sustenance truly comes to us through God’s hand. Just as we may not use the bread dough unless we have separated challah, so too, a portion of our livelihood is always reserved for the giving of charity.
Today, …in remembrance of this …and in anticipation of the future redemption and rebuilding of the Holy Temple, we still observe the mitzvah of separating the challah portion. We remove the piece of dough, but instead of eating it, we burn it, as its sacredness prohibits using it in any way.
Blessing Recited Upon Taking Challah
Baruch Atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech Haolam, Asher K’dishanu B’mitzvotav V’tzivanu L’hafrish Challah.
Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the Universe, who has sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us to separate challah.
After saying the blessing, separate a small piece of dough, approximately one ounce, and say: “Harei zo challah” or “This is challah.”
After separating the challah, many have the custom to recited the following tefillah (prayer):
“May it be Your Will, Eternal, our God, that the commandment of separating challah be considered as if I had performed it with all its details and ramifications. May my elevation of the challah be comparable to the sacrifice that was offered on the altar, which was acceptable and pleasing. Just as giving the challah to the Kohein in former times served to atone for sins, so may it atone for mine, and make me like a person reborn without sins. May it enabled me to observe the holy Sabbath (or Festival of…) with my husband (and our children) and to become imbued with its holiness. May the spiritual influence of the mitzvah of challah enable our children to be constantly sustained by the hands of the Holy One, blessed is He, with His abundant mercy, loving-kindness, and love. Consider the mitzvah of challah as if I have given the tithe. And just as I am fulfilling this mitzvah with all my heart, so may Your compassion be aroused to keep me from sorrow and pain, always. Amen.”