The Schmooze

This Shabbat, Challah Is Key — But Why?

Today, the Instagram account Frumfun shared a great photo featuring a bearded man dressed in a shirt and slacks with a challah tied up in his tzitzit (a ritual garment with specially knotted fringes worn by religious Jewish men).

But what is the story behind this oddly-shaped, easily transported challah?

Shlissel challah, or key challah, is traditionally baked on the Shabbat following the holiday of Passover to celebrate the return of freshly-baked delicious bread (and freedom from matzo!).

But the shape of the loaves also contain symbolic significance:

As Carol Unger writes on the Joy of Kosher blog, “It is a Jewish mystical teaching that [God]’s goodies are locked up and our prayers are the ‘key’s’ to opening His storehouse. The act of making schlissel challah is in and of itself regarded as a way to draw down the Heavenly blessing of parnassa or sustenance.”

Making key challah for this Shabbat? Email us your photos for a chance to be featured!

Laura E. Adkins is the Forward’s contributing network editor. Contact her at or on Twitter, @Laura_E_Adkins.

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This Shabbat, Challah Is Key — But Why?

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