Challah bread made fresh in a bakery

Challah If You Hear Me: The Symbolism of Challah Bread

When it comes to Jewish food, there probably is not anything quite as beloved as challah bread. It has become such a staple that it is common to find it on many centerpieces of the dinner table and holiday get-togethers. It has a long history and we are going to get to the bottom of it.

As one of Arizona’s most popular New York-Style delis, we offer an array of favorites from latkes and matzo ball soup to our Reubens. Read our blog post below to learn about the symbolism behind the delicious challah bread.

What Exactly is Challah Bread?

Challah is a loaf of braided bread that is made with eggs, flour, yeast, and salt. It is typically pale yellow due to the number of eggs used in its creation. Some challah recipes actually call for raisins, honey, and seeds, but it all depends on your preferences and what you are celebrating.

Challah Bread is Equally as Delicious as it is Symbolic

Challah refers to the mitzvah (a blessing or good deed) of separating a portion of the dough before you begin braiding as a contribution to the Kohen (priest). This commandment is called the hafrashat challah. Moreover, on some occasions a blessing is said over two loaves of bread, symbolizing the two portions of the manna that was distributed on Fridays to the children of Israel during their Exodus from Egypt. 

The bread is covered on the table by a decorative challah cover or a white napkin, which represents the dew that is collected on the manna in the morning. Poppy and sesame seeds sprinkled on the bread also symbolize the manna that fell from heaven.

Challah bread is made in various sizes and shapes that have several meanings. For example:

  • Braided ones, which may have three, four, or six strands, are the most common, and because they look like arms intertwined, symbolize love. 
  • Three braids symbolize truth, peace, and justice. Twelve humps from two small or one large braided bread recall the miracle of the 12 loaves for the 12 tribes of Israel. 
  • Round loaves, where there is no beginning and no end, are baked for Rosh Hashanah to symbolize continuity. 
  • Ladder and hand shapes are served at the meal before the fast of Yom Kippur, the ladder signifying that we should ascend to great heights, the hand that we may be inscribed for a good year. 
  • On Purim, small triangular loaves symbolize Haman’s ears; at Shavuot, two oblongs side by side represent the Tablets of the Law (the 10 commandments). 
  • The bulkah is a segmented rectangular challah. Sweet challahs with honey or raisins are baked during the festive season to bring joy and happiness.

Even the name “challah” is derived from the Hebrew word used for portion in the biblical commandment of the first of your dough, you shall give unto the Lord a portion for a gift throughout your generations.

Chompie’s is Serving New York Eats and Deli Favorites

Since 1979, Chompie’s has been the restaurant of choice for Arizonians looking for an authentic menu that serves items like latkes, matzo ball soup, knishes, and so much more. Additionally, we are known for our New York Style menu serving classic deli items like bagels, mile-high sandwiches, salads, and colossal Reubens. We are proud of our long history of service and look forward to creating experiences you will not forget. Visit one of our locations today and see why we have become one of Arizona’s favorite delis to date.