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Challah Knife Guide

It’s that wonderful golden-brown, braided bread that everyone loves. It’s at the heart of every Shabbat and holiday table, and it makes the best French Toast around! It’s Challah, of course, and it’s no ordinary bread.

What’s So Special About Challah?

For forty years, while the Israelites wandered in the desert after having been freed from slavery to the Pharaoh in Egypt, G-d provided sustenance for them. Every night along with the drops of dew, the manna fell on the camp . . . every night, that is, except Shabbat, the Day of Rest. Instead, on the night before Shabbat, a double portion of manna fell so the Israelites would have enough to sustain them. To commemorate this double portion of manna, it is traditional to begin each Shabbat and holiday meal with two loaves of Challah.

After the Shabbat or holiday Kiddush, the Motzi, the traditional prayer for bread is recited: “Blessed are You, Adonai our G-d, Ruler of the Universe, who brings forth bread from the earth.” With that, each person at the table shares a piece of the Challah, and the festive meal begins.

What is Challah?

Challah is especially delicious bread, made from many eggs, flour, water, yeast, and sugar. Challah dough is usually rolled into long strands and braided before baking, creating an especially beautiful bread. It is brushed with egg, which gives it its lovely golden-brown color, and it is often sprinkled with poppy or sesame seeds. The sugar (or sometimes honey) gives Challah its special sweetness. The extra eggs give it its distinctive yellow color. And the Shabbat gives it its special meaning.

Challah is also part of the celebration of each Jewish holiday (except for Passover, when matzah takes its place). For Rosh Hashanah, it is customary to make a special Challah, which is twisted into a round shape instead of braided. This round shape symbolizes the cycle of the Jewish year and the round shape of the world (whose creation is celebrated on Rosh Hashanah). Many people also add raisins to the Rosh Hashanah Challah to make it especially sweet in the hope of a sweet New Year.

Challah Knives

Given its central role in Shabbat and holiday meals, Challah occupies a special place on the table and is treated as something of an honored guest. It is traditional to keep the Challah covered until the Motzi prayer is recited, and most families have a beautiful Challah Cover especially for this purpose. Challah is generally not sliced prior to the meal, so many people have special Challah Boards and Challah Knives which they use to slice the Challah just before it is eaten.

Challah Knives as Judaica

All of these items--Challah Covers, Boards, and Knives--can be quite beautiful works of Judaica and are often handed down from one generation of a family to another. Challah Knives are often made of silver and inscribed with the words of the Motzi prayer. Their handles can also be crafted from wood, ceramic, or stone, and painted or decorated with Jewish symbols. Challah Knives are often sold in sets with matching Challah Boards.

A Challah Knife makes an especially lovely wedding gift, as it can be used by the bride and groom when saying the Motzi and cutting the Challah that is eaten at their wedding reception.

For More Information

For more information on Challah Knives or other Judaica items, feel free to contact our Judaica experts with any questions or concerns.

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