Introduction to Challah

Challah (1:1) | Natan Rickman | 18 years ago

One of the mitzvot that the Bnei Yisrael was given when they entered the was to separate part of the dough and give it to the Kohanim. This mitzvah was known as “Challah”. The obligation only applied to bread made out of the five grains listed in the first Mishnah of Masechet Challah. When suggesting a “hint” to the reason of this mitzvah the Sefer HaChinnuch explains that since bread is the most basic food, the Torah wanted to give us Mitzvot that would aid in imbuing holiness into one of the most common actions of man - baking bread. This transforms the bread from providing solely for the body into food for the body and soul. Furthermore it seamlessly provides the Kohanim with food enabling them to be totally focused on the service.

The mitzvah of Challah is only a Torah obligation within the borders of , and must be eaten by a kohen in a state of spiritually purity. However, since today we are spiritually impure, without a Beit Ha’Mikdash and are missing Kohanim able to prove their lineage back to Aharon, we are unable to fulfil this mitzvah in its completeness. Nevertheless Chazal did institute an rabbinic requirement in order that we should not forget the Torah obligation. Therefore today we separate the dough and burn it.

Chazal throughout the Gemara and in later times often instituted laws and rules in order that they act as some type of reminder. For example lulav for all seven days of Sukkot, sfirat ha’omer, marror on seder night, and shmittah. Chazal used two different types of zechira the first was that the remembrance was a ‘carbon copy’ of the original mitzvah and the second was a simple reminder meaning any action would suffice.

One of the most common cases found in Chazal of this instituted mitzvah was that of zecher le’Miskdash, a remembrance of the that stood in .

Rav Soloveitchik זצ''ל, explained that there are two focuses when remembering the . The first is keeping the memory that the was destroyed and that we are in exile in the forefront of our minds. This is expressed for example, by the halacha that a chatan puts ash on his head under the chuppah, a space is left in the house undecorated and the fast days. These were all instituted for the memory of the destruction of the Beit Ha’Mikdash.

The second is the remembering the glory of that which the represented and the beauty of the House. As the Gemarah states, ‘whoever did not see the has never seen a beautiful building in their life’. This is expressed in the mitzvah of lulav. According to the Torah the lulav is only taken on the first day of Sukkot outside the while it is taken everyday inside the . Therefore after the destruction the Rabbis instituted that we should take the four species all the days of the chag.

However, in the case of Challah, Chazal where restricted in the creation of the remembrance. They were unable to create a rabbinic copy of the Torah obligation, as the Torah obligation was centred on one being in a spiritual state of purity. As mentioned above we are all in a state of spiritual impurity as there is no longer the para aduma. Therefore the Rabbis obligated us to separate the dough, make a bracha and then burn the bread. This is therefore seen as a remembrance of the original Torah obligation and a solemn zecher le'mikdash.


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