The following is a discussion of Halachic topics related to the Parsha of the week.
For final rulings, consult your Rav.
As the first of your kneading you shall set aside a loaf as a portion (15:20)
THE MITZVAH OF SEPARATING CHALLAH
It is a time honored custom(1) for women to bake challos for Shabbos, both
because it enhances kavod Shabbos(2) and because it is an opportunity for
them to set aright Chavah's sin on the first erev Shabbos of Creation(3).
For this and other reasons(4), it is halachically preferable that a woman be
the one who separates the challah rather than a man". Let us review some of
the halachos pertaining to separating challah:
THE PROCEDURE OF SEPARATION:
Those who usually recite l'shem yichud before performing a mitzvah should do
so before performing this mitzvah as well(5).
The woman should stand while the challah is being separated and the blessing
recited(6). If she did so while sitting, however, the challah separation is
The proper time to separate challah is before baking the dough while the
batter is raw. If, however, one forgot to separate challah before baking the
dough, she must do so after the dough has been baked(8).
A small piece of dough is removed from the mass. Preferably, the designated
piece should be at least a k'zayis(9) (approx. 1 oz.).
The designated piece of dough should be held with the right hand. A
left-handed person should hold it in her left hand(10).
Immediately before(11) the separation of the designated piece - with no
talking in between - the blessing should be recited. The following is the
correct text: Baruch ata... l'ehafrish Challah. Some follow the custom of
adding two words to the end of the blessing: Min ha-Issah / One who does not
have this tradition should not add these two words(12).
After the separation of the challah, it is proper to recite [in any
language]: This piece is [separated for] challah(13).
DISPOSING OF THE CHALLAH
The designated piece should be burned until it is no longer edible. The
ashes may then be discarded. Under extenuating circumstances, when the
challah cannot be burned, some poksim permit carefully wrapping the challah
in a bag and throwing it in the garbage(14). In such a case, less than a
k'zayis should be separated.]
The piece of challah that was separated is forbidden to be eaten. In
effect, it is a non-kosher food. Care should be taken that it does not touch
the rest of the baked goods, either in or out of the oven.
If the challah is burned inside the oven [in which other items are being
baked] it should be left tightly wrapped in silver foil so that steam from
the non-kosher challah does not penetrate the oven walls. B'dieved, however,
if it was not wrapped, the oven does not become non kosher and does not need
to undergo a koshering process(15). If, however, the challah comes into
physical contact with the other baked goods while they are in the oven, the
baked goods may become non-kosher(16). A rav must be consulted.
THE MINIMUM AMOUNT OF FLOUR(17) WHICH REQUIRES SEPARATION OF CHALLAH:
A dough which contains less than 10 cups of flour (approx. two and a half to
three pounds) is completely exempt from challah.
A dough which contains more than 10 cups of flour requires separation of
challah, but no blessing is recited.
A dough which contains more than 16 cups of flour (over 4 pounds) requires
separation of challah with a blessing(17).
It is possible that a dough which was originally baked with less than the
prescribed amount of flour would ultimately require separation of challah:
If several small doughs are combined, they are halachically considered as
one dough. In the following three cases the doughs may be considered as one
If the doughs are [or were previously] pressed together tightly enough so
that when they are separated they will stick to one another, they are
considered as one dough and challah must be separated from one of them.
Even if the doughs are not [or were not] pressed together but are placed in
one deep utensil(19) and are touching each other(20), they require hafroshas
challah and challah must be separated from one of them. Note that even if
the doughs have been baked into bread or cakes and then placed together in
one utensil, they will require hafroshas challah at that point.
Even if the doughs are not [or were not] pressed together and are not [or
were not] placed in one utensil, but are lying on a counter or on a table
and are touching each other and are completely wrapped up in a cloth, they
are considered as one dough and challah must be separated from one of
them(21). Note that even if the doughs have been baked into bread or cakes
and then wrapped together, they will require hafroshas challah at that
The following exceptions to the above rule apply:
If the two doughs have different sets of ingredients and thus taste
different from each other, or even if they taste the same but were made by
two different people, or even if they were made by one person but she does
not want to mix them or combine them, or even if she does not care whether
they are mixed but the flours are from grain grown in two separate years -
then they are not considered as one dough, even if they are pressed together
or touching each other in the same utensil.
An oven, a refrigerator or a freezer is not considered as a utensil which
combines small doughs or baked goods into one big unit, particularly if the
items are individually wrapped(22).
The above information is useful for women who are baking several doughs,
each of which contains less than the minimum amount of flour. Women who
would like to incur the obligation and fulfill the mitzvah of challah have
one of the three following options. They are all l'chatchilah:
They could firmly press the doughs together;
They could place the doughs, while touching each other, in one deep utensil;
They could leave the doughs on the counter or table and completely enwrap
them in a towel or sheet.
After one of these options is followed, challah may be separated as
1. Shulchan Aruch cites challah-baking as a worthy custom "that should not be
2. Rama O.C. 242:1.
3. Mishnah Berurah 242:6.
4. See Bartenura Shabbos 2:6.
5. Kaf ha-Chayim O.C. 457:12. The appropriate nusach is quoted there.
15. Since dough, generally, is not liquid and hardly emits steam. Even if it
will, it is negligible.
16. See Leket ha-Omer 14, note 3.
17. Ruling of Harav T.P. Frank which is followed by many women. Some poskim
maintain that a blessing should not be recited unless five pounds of flour
are used - Harav Y.E. Henkin (Eidus l'Yisrael 40).
18. Based on Mishnah Berurah 457:7 and Beiur Halachah.
19. The utensil must be sufficiently deep so that no dough [or baked item]
will protrude from it.
20. Minchas Yitzchak 8:109 maintains that even if the doughs are in
individual pans or bags and the pans are touching each other [and they are
placed in one big deep utensil] the doughs are considered combined. Harav
S.Z. Auerbach (Shemiras Shabbos K'hilchasah 42, note 39) disagrees.
21. Beiur Halachah 457:1.
22. See Beiur ha-Gra Y.D. 325:3 (concerning an oven). See also Machzeh
Eliyahu 111 and Shemiras Shabbos K'hilchasah 42, note 39.