Rabbi, How do I……Separate Challah????


(People have asked about different aspects of the important Mitzva of Hafrashas Challah. What follows is a FAQ with some important commonly asked questions and answers primarily gleaned from the OU in New York, COR of Detroit (Rav Doniel Neustadt, Av Beth Din),  and the Scroll-K in Denver and two articles from Rabbi Josh Flug of YU/CJF)


WHAT is the Mitzvah of separating Challah (Hafrashas Challah)?

The Mitzva of Challah is mentioned in Bamidbar, Perek 15, Posukim 17-21. The Mitzva is to tithe a portion of the dough that you knead and give it to a Kohain. The Kohain would eat the Challah when he is free from any contaminates, (such as one who came in contact with a deceased person). Today, since the Kohanim are not Tahor from such contaminates the Challah is not given to the Kohain. The rest of the dough, however, is forbidden to be eaten until the Challah is separated. Therefore, Challah is separated and burned, to assure that it will not be eaten.

    Thus, when baking large amounts of bread, cake, or cookies, we make a berachah and take off a small piece of dough as the challah. Many bake extra dough in order to be able to perform this special mitzvah.

Special, intricate systems have been set up, under the guidance of our poskim, to help perform this mitzvah properly in large (Jewish owned) industrial bakeries. Nevertheless, it is helpful to review the details of separating and disposing of challah as it pertains to its performance in homes and bakeries.

Does it make a difference that I’m doing it here in Elizabeth/Hillside and not Israel?

There are a few Halachos that apply to the mitzvah of Hafrashas Challah in Eretz Yisrael that do not apply in Chutz La'Aretz (the Diaspora):

1)                  The Torah commandment to observe this Mitzvah only applies to dough that was kneaded in Eretz Yisrael (derived from the verse "milechem ha'aretz," from the bread of the land, see Rambam, Hilchot Bikkurim 5:5). The Mitzvah of Hafrashas Challah in the Diaspora is only rabbinic in nature.

2)                  The Mishna, (Challah 2:7), states that one should give one twenty-fourth (1/24) of the dough to the kohen. This rule applies only in Eretz Yisrael, not in Chutz La'Aretz.

3)                  It is prohibited to eat bread from Eretz Yisrael prior to the separation of challah. Regarding bread from Chutz La'Aretz, the Gemara, (Bechoros 27a), states that it is permissible to eat most of the bread first and then separate the challah.

Despite, these notable differences, as a matter of common practice, the laws of Hafrashas Challah in Eretz Yisrael are very similar to that of Chutz La'Aretz. First, the Gemara, (Ketubot 25a), states that the mitzvah of Hafrashas Challah is only applicable on a biblical level if the majority of the Jewish people are residing in Eretz Yisrael. If the majority of the Jewish people are living in the Diaspora, the mitzvah of Hafrashas Challah is rabbinic in nature. Second, Rosh (8:4), rules that the requirement to give one twenty-fourth of the dough to the kohen is only applicable in times when people are ritually pure (i.e. there is a parah adumah to purify people from impurities imparted by coming in contact with a cadaver). Nowadays, when everyone is ritually impure, there is no requirement to give the challah to the kohen; rather, the separated piece is burned. Rama (Yoreh De'ah 322:5), codifies the Rosh’s  opinion and adds that since the piece is burned, there is no need to separate a specific amount of challah. Rambam, (Hilchot Terumot 3:1), presents the same idea regarding Terumah. Birkei Yosef, (Yoreh De'ah 322:2) applies Rambam's ruling to challah as well and notes that this is the basis for common Sephardic practice to separate only a small amount.

Which items require Hafrashas Challah?

If one bakes bread, cake, crackers, or cookies with flour from the five grains, one must separate challah. This is true whether one prepares a thick or a thin (pourable) dough1. It is generally assumed that the five grains are wheat, barley, oats, spelt, and rye. If one bakes with other grains there is no obligation to separate challah.

How much do I have to bake?

If one bakes with the volume of 43 1/5 beitzim of flour, one must be mafrish challah2. There is a difference of opinion when translating this amount into contemporary terms. According to some opinions, one is obligated to separate challah when kneading dough that contains more than 2 2/3 pounds of flour3. Others have the practice to separate challah only if the dough is made with close to four pounds of flour. However, the common practice is to recite a beracha only if five pounds of flour is used in the dough.

* When the small doughs are of different varieties of flour (e.g. a doughs of wheat flour and a doughs of oat flour), a Rabbinical authority should be consulted.

A dough containing water and 5 pounds or more of flour

Challah should be separated with a Brocha

A dough containing water and 2 _ pounds or more but less than 5 pounds of flour

Challah should be separated without a Brocha

A dough that does not contain any water

It is best to add a little bit of water; if no water can be added, challah should be separated without a Brocha. In this case the separated Challah should not be burned.

A dough that will be cooked, not baked (e.g. noodles), with or without water and 2 _ pounds or more (even if more than 5 pounds) of flour

Challah should be separated without a Brocha. If the product does not contain any water and is not cooked in water the separated Challah should not be burned.

A liquid batter (e.g. cake batter) containing 2 1/2 pounds or more and even more than 5 pounds of flour

Challah should be separated AFTER THE CAKE IS FINISHED BEING BAKED without a Brocha. If the product does not contain any water the separated Challah should not be burned.

What if I don’t have enough of one dough but I still want to make the Beracha and do the mitzvah with different doughs that I’m making? Also, can I combine with my friend’s dough even if we are baking our stuff separately?

  If there are two batters which 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. Thus, you would not be able to make the Beracha without the minimal sizes in these cases.

   There are three possibilities for women who want to combine disparate dough in order to be able to perform the Mitzvah of Hafrashas Challah:

1.      They can firmly press the doughs together.

2.      They can place the doughs, while touching each other, in one deep utensil.

3.      They can leave the doughs on the counter or table and completely enwrap them in a towel or sheet.

   After any one of these options is followed, challah may be separated and if in combination there is 5 pounds, Challah can be separated with a Beracha.

Who may perform this Mitzva?

The owner of the dough or an adult (i.e. over Bar or Bas Mitzva) Shomer Shabbos Jew appointed by the owner must separate the challah.

When is the hafrasha done?

 When baking bread or a cake with a thick dough, one should separate challah after kneading the dough but before the bread is baked4. However, when baking a cake with a batter that can be poured, the challah is separated after the cake is baked5.

How is it done?

One stands near the dough or cake, recites the beracha בא“ה אמ“ה אשר קדשנו במצוותיו וציונו להפריש חלה or להפריש תרומה, and breaks off a small piece (approximately a kezayis). One should then verbally declare harei zu trumah or harei zu challah6.

When separating challah for several batches of dough at one time (when each one contains the shiur challah), all of the dough should be in close proximity to each other at the time of the declaration. If the dough is not in a bowl or container, it is sufficient for all of the dough to be in the same room as the person who is separating the challah. However, if the batches of dough are in bowls or containers, one should be careful (לכתחילה) that while separating the challah the bowls should be open and touching7.

However, if one or all of the containers does not contain the shiur challah, this method does not suffice8. In such a situation, one should place all of the dough into one large container before separating challah. Similarly, if one bakes several small batches of bread or cake and then puts them all together in a bag, container, or freezer9, one must separate challah if the combined batches make up a shiur challah. For example, if one baked cookies in three separate batches with each batch containing two pounds of flour and he then placed all of the cookies into a cookie jar, one must separate challah from the cookies10.

What do I do with the “challah”?

The Torah (Bamidbar 15:21) says that the challah is given as a present to a kohain to eat. However, since we are all tamei nowadays, the kohanim can no longer eat the challah11. The halacha is that terumah and challah that are tamei must be burnt12.

Preferably, one should put the challah into an open fire until it is completely burnt. The Rema records the practice of burning the challah in the fire inside the oven before baking bread13. Since this is not very practical in modern ovens, one possible alternative is to place the small piece of dough in the middle of a burner on a gas stove top for a few minutes until it is burnt to a crisp. It goes without saying that care must be taken to avoid any possibility of a fire.

Alternatively, one can place the piece of dough into the oven until it is completely burnt. When doing so it is important to keep in mind a few important points. It is best to burn the challah in the oven uncovered in order to make sure that the challah is completely burnt. However, since the challah is not permitted to be eaten by a non-kohain (or by a kohain who is tamei), we can not allow any of the taste of the challah to come in contact with the food that we eat. As such, one should not place it directly on the broiler where one broils livers or on the oven rack. Rather, one should place the challah on a dedicated “challah burning” tray or on piece of aluminum foil and leave it in the oven until it is completely burnt. Some wrap the challah dough in a piece of aluminum foil. The disadvantage of doing so is that it will take a very long time for the dough to be properly burnt.

May I use my oven while the Challah is burning?

If the challah is completely wrapped up, one may bake other items in the oven while the challah is burning. However, if the challah is uncovered, it is best to avoid baking anything else in the oven while the challah is burning14. If one accidentally did use the oven while the challah was burning, one may eat the food15.

Is there any other way to dispose of the challah?

Most opinions hold that one is not permitted to destroy the challah in any other manner16. The opinion of the Chazon Ish is that if it is too difficult to burn the challah and by leaving it around the house one may inadvertently eat or mistreat the challah, one may bury the challah17. However, many disagree and feel that the challah should always be burnt.

Is there a reason to do this on Erev Shabbos?

Rama,(Orach Chaim 242:1), writes that there is a minhag to knead a shiur challah (the amount necessary to perform the mitzvah of hafrashat challah) on Erev Shabbat and to use that dough for all of the bread necessary for the Shabbat meals. Magen Avraham (242:7), provides two reasons for this minhag. First, the minhag serves to ensure that people eat Pas Yisrael (bread baked by a Jew) on Shabbat. Although it is permissible to eat bread that was baked by a non-Jewish baker (see Shulchan Aruch and Rama, Yoreh De'ah 112:2), Ran, (Rosh HaShanah 12b, s.v. Garsinan B'Yerushalmi,) notes that during the Aseret Yemei Teshuva, it is proper to eat Pas Yisrael exclusively, due to the holy nature of these days. Magen Avraham suggests that the same should apply to Shabbat.

Second, Magen Avraham (as explained by Machatzit HaShekel, ad loc.) suggests that the reason one should knead a shiur challah is based on the Midrash. Midrash Tanchuma, (Parshas Noach no.1), states that the reason that women are given particular scrutiny in their performance of the mitzvah of hafrashat challah is because the mitzvah of hafrashas challah serves as atonement for the sin of Chavah, who caused mankind to be expelled from Gan Eden. As such, the most appropriate day to fulfill this atonement is Erev Shabbat, the day of the birth of mankind.

OOPS, I forgot to separate the Challah from my Challos. It’s Shabbos now, what do I do?

There is one very important difference between the mitzvah of Hafrashas Challah in Eretz Yisrael and the mitzvah in Chutz La'Aretz. This is it.

In Chutz La'Aretz it is permissible to eat most of the bread first and then separate challah from the rest. This does not apply in Eretz Yisrael even nowadays (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De'ah 323:1). This rule is most relevant for one who forgot to perform the mitzvah of Hafrashas Challah prior to Shabbos and would like to eat the bread on Shabbat. It is prohibited to separate challah on Shabbat (Mishna Berurah 339:26) just as it is prohibited to separate terumah and ma'aser on Shabbat (Mishna, Beitzah 36a). Therefore, Mishna Berurah (261:4), rules that if one has bread from Chutz La'Aretz and forgot to separate challah before Shabbat, he may eat most of the bread and separate the challah after Shabbos. This would not apply to bread from Eretz Yisrael (See Shemiras Shabbos KeHilchasa ch.31, note 95).



1 If one prepares a thick dough and intends on cooking the dough, one should separate challah without a bracha. If one intends on cooking a pourable dough, challah does not have to be separated.

2 Yoreh Deah 324:1

3 This is based upon the opinion of Rav Avrohom Chaim Naeh (see Sefer Shi’urei Torah page 158).

4 Yoreh Deah 327:2

5 See Tosfos Bechoros 27a “b’reish” and Shach 329:4.

6 See R’ Akiva Eiger (Yoreh Deah 328:1). Some have the practice of reciting “הרי זו חלה לה’ על הכל

7 Beiur Ha’gra, Yoreh Deah 325:8 cited in Mishna Berurah 457:7

8 See Mekor Chayim (Orach Chayim 457:3) and Mishnah Berurah (457:7). See also Shach (Yoreh Deah 325:6).

9 If the bread is contained in separate bags or wrappings some feel that it is not chayav in challah (Sefer Derech Emunah, Hilchos Bikurim, 6:137).

10 Yoreh Deah 325:1

11 Challah that is separated in Eretz Yisroel may not be eaten be a kohain who is tamei tum’as meis. In chutz la’aretz, only a kohain who has a tumah hayotzei migufo is forbidden from eating challah. Therefore, if a kohain was a ba’al keri and he went to the mikvah he may eat chalas chutz la’aretz even though he is tamei tum’as meis. The Rema (Orach Chayim 457:2) records that nevertheless some have the minhag not to give challah to kohanim b’zman ha’zeh.

12 See Tosfos Shabbos 25a (v’cahin) and Rambam Hilchos Yom Tov 3:8.

13 Yoreh Deah 322:5

14 The Shach (Yoreh Deah 108:1) quotes from the Issur V’heter that one may bake bread in the oven while the challah is burning. However, the Aruch Ha’shulchan (108:9) and others disagree and feel that the oven should not be used at all if the challah is uncovered.

15 See Rema Yoreh Deah 108:1.

fn16 There is a machlokes Rishonim whether or not a kohain may feed terumah (or challah) t’meiah to his animals. Rashi holds that one may and Tosfos disagrees and holds that it must be burnt (see Beitza 27b Tosfos “V’al” and Pesachim 46a Tosfos “Lo” ).

17 Chazon Ish Zeraim (Demai 15:1)