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The dough offering (Hebrew mitzvat terumat challah Hebrew: מצוות תרומת חלה) is a positive commandment requiring the owner of a bread dough to give a part of the kneaded dough to a kohen (Jewish Priest). The obligation to separate the dough offering (henceforth: challah) from the dough begins the moment the dough is kneaded, but may also be separated after the loaves are baked. This commandment is one of the twenty-four kohanic gifts, and, by a biblical injunction, is only obligatory in the Land of Israel, but from a rabbinic injunction applies also to breadstuffs made outside the Land of Israel.
The common modern practice in Orthodox Judaism is to burn the portion to be given the Kohen, although giving the challah to a Kohen for consumption is permitted - even encouraged - outside Israel (permitted with restrictions, see article below for detail).
In the Hebrew Bible
The origin of the offering is found in Book of Numbers 15:18-20:
Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them, 'When you enter the land where I bring you, then it shall be, that when you eat of the food of the land, you shall lift up an offering to the LORD. Of the first of your dough you shall lift up a cake as an offering; as the offering of the threshing floor, so you shall lift it up. From the first of your dough you shall give to the LORD an offering throughout your generations.
In the above passage "cake" is khallah (Heb. חלה) while "of dough" is ʿarisah (Heb. עריסה). The return of the Jews from the Babylonian exile marked a renewal in adherence to numerous commandments, and the dough offering, "the firstfruits of our dough," is listed as one of them (Nehemiah 10:37).
In the Mishnah and Talmud
The Mishnah contains a tractate known as Hallah dealing with the dough offering. Among the rulings, only five grains require the separation of the dough offering: wheat (ḥiṭah), barley (se'īr), spelt (kusemet), wild barley [variant opinion: oats] (shibolet shu'al) and rye [variant opinion: Ovate goatgrass] (shipon). In the same tractate is stated the prohibition of setting aside dough offering and tithes from dough made from grain harvested after the New Year, on behalf of dough made from "old" grain. The Jerusalem Talmud implies that the commandment was given before the sin of the Twelve Spies.
Certain preparations of dough were exempt from the duty of separating the dough-offering, such as Sūfgenīn dough that was made with a thin-batter, variously mixed with spices or milk-products, and deep-fried in oil to be made into fritters. Included in this exemption is dough that has been kneaded with milk and honey to be deep-fried over a stove into honey-cakes (Hebrew: dūḇshanīn). Although exempt from the dough-offering, they still require the separation of regular tithes. The Jerusalem Talmud makes the exemption of separating the dough-offering contingent upon breadstuffs that have been cooked in a frying pan or pot over a stove, rather than baked in an oven. If these were baked as bread in an oven, they would still require the separation of the dough-offering. A quantity of dough equalling 1.6 kilogram or more which was prepared to make hardened biscuits (Hebrew: qanūḇqa’ot) requires the separation of the dough offering.
Challah, as one of the twenty-four kohanic gifts, was a means of sustenance for the kohanim, who, because of their expected full-time involvement with Temple duties and Torah instruction, did not have land or income derived from it, unlike the other tribes of Israel.
Obadiah ben Jacob Sforno reasons that God wished to negate the negative effect of the sin of The Twelve Spies by establishing this Mitzvah in order that bracha ("divine blessing") should rest in the homes of and on the dough products of the Jews.
Shlomo Ephraim Luntschitz explains that the Land of Israel is sustained by rainfall, whereas crops in Egypt are irrigated by the waters of the Nile river which requires human intervention, making it logical that the first fruits of Israel be presented to God who brings its rainfall.
Other insights on the symbolism of Challah appear in Midrashic and Kabbalistic literature. The Mitzvah of separating challah is traditionally regarded as one of the three Mitzvot performed especially by women.
In some Kabbalistic literature, such as Shlomo HaKohain of Greece's commentary on the Zohar, the performing of this commandment by women, who traditionally did the cooking, uplifts the dough from a state of tevel (spiritual non-readiness) and brings it to a state of khullin (mundane and permitted to its owner), thereby correcting the action of Eve who gave of the forbidden fruit to her husband.
The components of the Mitzvah
The mitzvah of challah is one mitzvah with two parts: (1) separating the required dough (Hafrashat challah), (2) giving the dough to a Kohen (Netinat Challah). Nachmanides as well as the Tosafist Isaiah di Trani explain that it is the actual giving of the Challah portion to the Kohen that is the primary component of the Mitzvah.
Species of grain
According to the Talmud, the requirement to separate Challah from the dough was imposed on the owner of the dough, not on the person who kneaded it; hence if the owner was not Jewish, even if the kneader was, Hafrashat Challah was not mandatory. The requirement does not apply to quantities of less than one omer, neither to bread prepared as animal feed nor to dough prepared from a flour derived from other cereal grains, excepting wheat, barley, oat (var. goatgrass), spelt, or rye (var. wild barley), which grains are obligated. Although the Biblical expression when you eat of the bread of the land might be understood as applying only to bread eaten in the Land of Israel, Rabbinic sources interpret that Hafrashat Challah should be observed in the Diaspora as well.
Minimal amount of source dough
The minimal quantity of dough whose preparation mandates the performance of the Mitzvah is quantified by Chazal as a portion of flour equivalent to 43 and 1/5 eggs, also known as one Issaron (one-tenth of an ephah). According to Maimonides, it is possible to test the trigonometric calculations for the volume of 43.2 eggs. This said quantity of flour can be measured by filling-up a space 10 fingerbreadths x 10 fingerbreadths square (the finger's breadth being appx. 2.5 cm), with a depth of 3 fingerbreadths and 1/10 of another fingerbreadth, along with a little more than 1/100 of another fingerbreadth. In modern terms;
- The quantity that qualifies the reciting of a Brocha is about 1.64 kg. (Some do not recite a blessing unless the quantity is above 2.25 kg.)
- A quantity of flour weighing between approximately 2 lb 11oz (1.23 kg) and 3 lb 11oz (1.666 kg) qualifies for giving Challah but no Brocha is recited
Amount of the actual gift
The Torah does not specify how much dough is required to be given to the Kohen, this is discussed in the Talmud. The rabbinical stipulation is that 1/24 is to be given in the case of private individuals, and 1/48 in the case of a commercial bakery. If the baker forgets to set aside Challah, it is permissible to set aside Challah portion of the bread after it has been baked.
The Mitzvah is listed as one in effect in Israel even during the Shmittah (Sabbatical) year. Even the pauper who is entitled to collect Peah and would be exempt from giving Ma'aser (Tithe) is obligated to give Challah from his dough portion. The dough from Maaser Sheni, is likewise not exempt from Challah giving.
The Mitzvah in modern practice
The consumption of Challah by a Kohen in the Land of Israel is forbidden by Torah law due to the absence of the ashes of the Red Heifer necessary for ritual purity.
With this in mind, the Tosefta, followed by the Rishonim, encouraged the act of separating "Challah" in order that the Mitzvah not be forgotten entirely, along with the full recitation of a blessing before the dough is separated. The blessing recited is "asher kiddeshanu bemitzvotav ve'tzivanu le'hafrish challah."
The common practice of Diaspora Jewry is to burn the Challah; home bakers fulfill this by tossing the Challah to the back of the oven. However, it is Halachically permitted in the Diaspora to give the separated Challah to a Kohen for consumption, and even encouraged by some Rabbinic authorities, with the provision that the Kohen has immersed in a Mikvah. The Kohen is also required to recite the required Beracha thanking God for sanctifying the Kohanim with the sanctity of Aharon. In Yemen, whenever baking a quantity of dough which required the separation of the dough-offering, one small loaf of flatbread was removed from the batch and designated as Challah and burnt, while another small loaf of flatbread from the same batch, being non-consecrated bread, was given to a small child of the priestly stock and eaten by him, so that the practice of giving the Challah would not be forgotten amongst Israel.
If no separation is done while cooking, it can be done afterwards without a blessing.
Passover Challah from Shmurah Matzah
The commentators to the Shulchan Aruch record that it is the Minhag of some Diaspora Jews to be scrupulous in giving Challah (in this case fully baked passover matzah) from the dough used for baking "Matzot Mitzvah" (the Shmurah Matzah eaten during Passover) to a Kohen minor to eat.
Kohanim of the diaspora have begun initiating requests from Jewish communities and prominent Rabbis to widely implement this Minhag, citing that its implementation would increase in Kiddush Hashem (per the unique brocha requirement) and reawaken awareness of the key component of the mitzvah of challah -the actual giving of the challah to the Kohen.
Daily challah yield
As of 2011, there are approximately 13 shmurah matzah bakeries in the diaspora. Collectively, the amount of challah produced is as follows (approximate):
|Shmurah Matzah Bakery||Approximate Daily Challah Yield|
|Shotzer||9.0 pounds (4.1 kg)|
|Crown Heights||10.5 pounds (4.8 kg)|
|Borough Park||10.0 pounds (4.5 kg)|
|Chareidim (Belz)||9.0 pounds (4.1 kg)|
|Puppa||9.0 pounds (4.1 kg)|
|Satmar (Brooklyn)||7.0 pounds (3.2 kg)|
|Kerestier||7.0 pounds (3.2 kg)|
|Satmar (Monroe)||8.0 pounds (3.6 kg)|
|Montreal||9.0 pounds (4.1 kg)|
|Monsey||6.0 pounds (2.7 kg)|
|Lakewood||8.0 pounds (3.6 kg)|
|Kiryas Yoel||7.0 pounds (3.2 kg)|
|Shotzer||8.0 pounds (3.6 kg)|
- Aharon HaLevi (1958). Sefer ha-Chinuch (in Hebrew). Jerusalem: Eshkol. OCLC 233044594., mitzvah # 385
- The Talmud of the land of Israel: a preliminary translation 28 p121 Jacob Neusner "Unit II introduces Tosefta's amplification and adds a sizable number of items. It would not be possible more precisely to ... [C] For dough-offering on behalf of dough about which there is a doubt whether or not dough-offering has ..."
- Jerusalem Talmud (Orlah 3:7); Maimonides, Mishne Torah (Hil. Bikkurim 5:7); Jacob ben Asher, Arba'ah Turim (Yoreh Deah 322:3); Shulhan Arukh (Yoreh Deah 322:3).
- Igud HaKohanim, The Torah of Challah; Giving Challah To The Kohen, 2nd ed. 2016, p. 6-24,.
- Numbers 15:18-21, NASB
- Shaye J. D. Cohen From the Maccabees to the Mishnah 1987 Page 141 "dealings with "the peoples of the land" on the Sabbath: to observe the seventh year ("the year of release"); and to support the temple and its priesthood through a wide variety of offerings (money, wood, first fruits, firstborn, dough,"
- Timothy R. Ashley The book of Numbers 1993 p283 - "A whole tractate in the Mishnah is called Halla, based on this word and explicating the so-called dough offering (see esp. 1:1; 2:7; H. Danby, The Mishnah [Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1933], pp. 83-88). 10. Cf. BOB, p. 175a. ..."
- Baruch M. Bokser Samuel's commentary on the Mishnah: its nature, forms, and content, Volume 1 1975 "One was prohibited to set aside Dough-offering and tithes from dough made from "new" grain in behalf of dough made from "old" grain. 354 The factor determining whether grain belonged to one year's crop or to the next was whether the ..."
- Jerusalem Talmud (Taanit 23b)
- Maimonides (1963). Mishnah, with Maimonides' Commentary (in Hebrew). 1. Translated by Yosef Qafih. Jerusalem: Mossad Harav Kook. p. 135. OCLC 741081810., Hallah 1:4, s.v. וסופגנין ודובשנין ואסקיטין: "Sūfgenīn, etc. Different types of bread which from the start of its kneading they mix therein oil or honey or spice and are cooked by different methods prescribed in cooking, and are so-called according to their ingredients and also according to the manner in which they are cooked.")
- Sirilio, Solomon (2010), "R. Solomon Sirilio's Commentary on the Jerusalem Talmud (Tractate Hallah)", in David Yonah, Rozenboim (ed.), Talmud Yerushalmi - Friedman edition, 8, Jerusalem: Mekhon "Oz ve-hadar", p. 13a (Hallah 1:4), OCLC 762536701,
Sūfgenīn, such as dough whose batter is thin, and afterwards they fry it in oil, or cook it in water; such [pastry] is not called bread, and is exempt from the dough-offering, nor does one bless over it 'He who brings forth bread from the earth,' but rather '[Blessed are you] who creates different kinds of foods,' [etc.]
- Mishnah Hallah 1:4 (p. 83)
- Hallah 1:4 - end
- Maimonides (1974). Sefer Mishneh Torah - HaYad Ha-Chazakah (Maimonides' Code of Jewish Law) (in Hebrew). 4. Jerusalem: Pe'er HaTorah. p. 70a (Bikkurim 6:12).
A batch of dough that has been kneaded with wine or oil or honey, or with scalding water, or had he put therein a spice, or boiled water and threw flour therein and kneaded it, if he baked it in an oven - whether on its floor or in a frying pan or pot, whether the dough had been made to cling to [the side of] a pot or frying pan and afterwards made them boiling hot from a fire lit below, until the bread was baked thereby (even if he had made it boiling hot first, and only afterwards made the bread-dough cling [to the oven]), all of these require the separation of the dough-offering. But if he prepared a batch of dough only to be dried in the hot sun, or to cook it in a pot, behold, it is exempt from the dough-offering.(END QUOTE); cf. Aharon HaLevi (1958). Sefer ha-Chinuch (in Hebrew). Jerusalem: Eshkol. OCLC 233044594., mitzvah # 385; cf. Babylonian Talmud (Pesahim 37a)
- Mishnah Hallah 1:5; cf. Nathan ben Abraham (1955), "Perush Shishah Sidrei Mishnah - A Commentary on the Six Orders of the Mishnah", in Sachs, Mordecai Yehudah Leib (ed.), The Six Orders of the Mishnah: with the Commentaries of the Rishonim (in Hebrew), Jerusalem: El ha-Meqorot, OCLC 233403923, s.v. Mishnah (Hallah 1:5), who explains qanūḇqa’ot as ka'akin and which were traditionally baked in an oven.
- Richard Elliott Friedman Who wrote the Bible? 1987; M. Black, H. H. Rowley Peake's Commentary on the Bible, passim name="pcode">Jewish Encyclopedia, Priestly Code, et passim
- Sforno to Numbers 15:20
- the others are lighting the Shabbat candles and family purity Talmud Bavli Shabbat
- Shlomo HaKohain of Greece שעת רצון על הזוהר Sha'at ratzon al ha Zohar vol. 1 p. 36b
- Nodah b'yehudah Mahadura tenyana ch. 201, with the first making the original dough non-Tevel, and the second giving the Separated portion (the "Kodesh") to the Kohein
- Nachmanides, Hasagot to the Commandments 12
- to Kiddushin ch. 2 (on daf 58b)
- Jewish Encyclopedia
- See: Zohar Amar and El'ad Kapah, The Yemenite Commentary of Rabbi Nathan, President of the Academy, on the Identification of Flora in the Mishnah, pub. in: Mittuv Yosef – Yosef Tobi Jubilee Volume, The Jews of Yemen: History and Culture (vol. 2), Haifa 2011, p. 13 (note 24) (Hebrew), who discusses the identificastion of one of the five grains, shibbolet shu'al (Heb. שבולת שועל), mentioned in Mishnah Pesahim 2:5 and in Mishnah Menahot 10:7, whose leaven is prohibited during Passover. While the Talmudic exegete, Rashi, holds this to be oats, and Maimonides holds it to be a type of "wild barley," Rabbi Nathan called it by its Arabic name sunbulat al-tha'alib (Fox's spike). Another one of the five grains whose leaven is prohibited at Passover is the shiffon (Heb. שיפון), which Rabbi Nathan explains in Mishnah Menahot 10:7 as meaning al-sāfeh (Judeo-Arabic: אלסאפה) and which word, according to Amar, is synonymous with the Arabic word dowsir (Ar. دوسر) - i.e. either one of the cultivated oats (Avena sativa) or Ovate goatgrass (Aegilops geniculata). Rashi (commentary to Babylonian Talmud, Pesahim 35a) thought that the Hebrew word shiffon meant שיגל"א (= seigle), or what is actually rye (Secale cereale), a grain crop that is not endemic to Israel.
- Ovadiah of Bertinoro's Commentary on Mishnah Hallah 2:6; Midrash Rabba (Numbers Rabba); pseudo-Jonathan ben Uzziel's Aramaic translation on Exodus 16:36 who puts 1/10 of an ephah at 1/10 of three seahs; Sheiltot of Rav Achai Gaon ch. 73
- The Mishnah with Maimonides' Commentary, Yosef Qafih (ed.), vol. 1, Mossad Harav Kook: Jerusalem 1963, s.v. Hallah 2:6 (p. 240); ibid.(vol. 2), Mossad Harav Kook: Jerusalem 1965, s.v. Eduyoth 1:2 (p. 189)
- Maimonides brings down its approximate weight in Egyptian dirhams, writing in Mishnah Eduyot 1:2: "...And I found the rate of the dough-portion in that measurement to be approximately five-hundred and twenty dirhams of wheat flour, while all these dirhams are the Egyptian [dirham]." This view is repeated by Maran's Shulhan Arukh (Hil. Hallah, Yoreh Deah 324:3) in the name of the Tur. In Maimonides' commentary of the Mishnah (Eduyot 1:2, note 18), Rabbi Yosef Qafih explains that the weight of each Egyptian dirham was approximately 3.333 grams, in which case the total weight of flour requiring the separation of the dough-portion is approximately 1.733 kg. Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef (Sefer Halikhot ʿOlam, vol. 1, pp. 288-291) ruled that the Egyptian dirham weighed approximately 3.0 grams, meaning the minimum requirement for the dough-offering is 1.560 kg. Others (e.g. Rabbi Avraham Chaim Naeh) say the Egyptian dirham weighed approximately 3.205 grams, meaning the minimum requirement for the dough-offering is 1.666 kg. Rabbi Shelomo Qorah (Chief Rabbi of Bnei Barak) brings down the traditional weight used in Yemen for each dirham, saying that it weighed 3.36 grams, meaning the minimum requirement for the dough-offering is 1.77072 kg.
- based on the measurement of Rabbi Chaim Naah as quoted by Y. Fliks in his work הצומח והחי במשנה" במשנה"
- talmud bavli, bechorot p. 12
- Sifri to Bamidbar 15:21
- Tosefta, Challah 4:4
- Shulhan Arukh (Yoreh Deah 328:1)
- Ramah to Yoreh Deah 322:5
- as the Mitzvah of giving Trumath Challah outside Israel is only Rabbinic and not D'oraita
- Tosefta, Challah 4:4. Ramban
- (prior to consumption) – And no Tumah is being excreted from his Body – Shulchan Aruch HaRav 457:20
- Ramah to Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 322:5 (quoted from the Rambam) : " ברוך את ה' אלהינו מלך העולם אשר קדשנו בקדושתו של אהרן וצוונו לאכול תרומה"
- See for a comparison Ishtori Haparchi (2007). Avraham Yosef Havatzelet (ed.). Sefer Kaftor Ve'ferah (in Hebrew). 2 (chapter 11) (3rd ed.). Jerusalem: Bet ha-midrash la-halakhah ba-hityashvut. p. 32. OCLC 32307172.; cf. Halakhot Gedolot, vol. 3 of the Makitzei Nirdamim edition, ed. Ezriel Hildesheimer, "Hilkot Ḥallah", Jerusalem 1987, p. 400
- Be'er Hetev to Yoreh Deah ch. 322 (minor par. 7), Sha"ch to above chapter