The Sabbath Challah

The bread is an essential part of Shabbat. The bread represents Jewish food. On Shabbat, it is a tradition to bless two pieces or loaves of bread. The two loaves represent the Manna that previously fell on Shabbat in the Desert during the Exodus of the Hebrew people of Egypt.

Sabbath bread is called Challah because it is an offering. In the Old Temple, twelve loaves were offered daily in the representation of the Twelve Tribes of Israel. Later, during the Middle Ages in Europe, for Shabbat, some rabbis continued to bless twelve pieces and others instead, used to bless only two in the representation of the portions of the Manna.

We went into Zomick’s Challah bakery to find out more interesting facts about the Challah bread, which we will share in this post.

Challah of Shabbat

The owner of Zomick’s, and the creator of the delicious Zomick’s Challah bread, shared with us a fundamental aspect in the elaboration of the Shabbat Challot. This refers to the ritual of the offering in the ancient Temple. It consists of extracting and removing a small piece of the dough, which represents the offering made by the Priests.

Shabbat bread can be made in different forms. Depending on the culture from which they come, they can be rounded, square, flattened, or spiral-shaped. Two slices of bread, two small rolls, two matzot (unleavened bread), two pieces of sponge cake or sweet cake, two braided loaves, or bread with double braid can also be used for the blessing. The smallest piece that is blessed and consumed has the size of an olive and the default is the size of an egg.

From a historical point of view, the incorporation of braided loaves is not recent. During the Modern Age (sixteenth century, according to writings of Rabbi Kirchan) the Jewish communities of Poland, Lithuania, and Ukraine incorporated the braided loaves into the Shabbat table. This was a festive format in the medieval German bakery. The tradition of braids has been transplanted into the Sephardic world after the Second World War.

We asked the Zomick’s Challah bakers: Why is it habituate to make braided Challah?

“There are several explanations for that. For some, each of the strands of a braid represents the greatest virtues of Judaism (goodness, justice, truth). For other Torah scholars, braided Challah has six ends because there are six days of the week. For several researchers and scholars of Judaism, the braided bread is always kneaded and blessed by the women of the family. This symbolizes the desires of fertility and interlacing of family ties” – says Zomick’s chief baker, who has an extended portfolio of baked goods.

In the Talmud (Berachot 61a) 1 it is explained that when the Eternal created Eve from a bone of Adam. Before presenting it to Adam to join her, he twisted his hair. Therefore, since the final touch of Eve’s beauty, was her braids, it is appropriate that whoever prepares the Challot, apply that same touch of beauty to the Sabbath Challot.

In 2015, Zomick’s Challah bread has become one of the 5 best Challah bread in New York. You can find the unique Zomick’s Challah recipe here.

For more delicious recipes from Zomick’s, visit their website.

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