The Shabbat after Passover is special to Jews around the the world, and even to foodies and bread connoisseurs —there is nothing like the smell of the dough rising and the taste of a warm piece of challah after almost two weeks of no leavened homemade bread.
In recent years, the tradition of baking a “Schlissel” or “Key” challah has taken on a new meaning for those visiting the Levi Yitzchak Library in Cedarhurst, NY. When the son of Sharrone Gluck became ill, leaders of the children’s library highlighted the event by bringing together women and teen girls to make the special bracha or blessing during the event to join the mitzvah of separating a piece of the dough to bringing merit to the speedy and full recovery for Binyamin Zev Hakohennben Sharrone Rivka.
According to Lisa Hawk, Director of the Library, “This year’s Sclissel Challah Week includes baking instructions and a bake sale featuring not only the key challahs, but cinnamon and chocolate buns, bread puddings and other baked goods featuring the dough from the donors and bakers.”
Rebbetzin Chanie Wolowik was excited to host this in the library named in memory of her late son. “The enthusiasm this year was so strong, that women contacted me who couldn’t be there and wanted to participate by sending me selfies, texts and videos. Some of their finished products will be included in our sale. I was also the featured guest at a Challah Bake at the Brandeis School, a Conservative Day School, engaging many women and students in this tradition for the first time.”
According to the book The Secret of Challah, there is a custom to bake key-shaped challah in honor of the Shabbat after Pesach for many reasons based on which rabbi you follow.
This was the time of year when the Jews entered the Holy Land and the manna stopped falling from heaven. Then they began to eat from the produce of the land and to earn their livelihood in a natural manner. The key-shaped challah symbolizes the key to livelihood which is in G-d’s hand, and our prayers to Him to open the gates of livelihood for us.
Another reason, based on Kabbalistic teachings, is that at midnight, on Seder night, various spiritual influences depart from the world. By working to achieve an enhanced spiritual level during the sefirat ha’omer period, we gradually bring them back. The key-shaped challah symbolizes the effort made on our part, as it is written, “Make for me an opening like the eye of a needle and I will open for you an opening as broad as a spacious hall.” We create an opening by observing Shabbat, and we hope G-d will open for us His bountiful treasure house, as it is written, “He had commanded the skies above, and opened the doors of heaven” (Psalms 78:23).