Dough offering

The dough offering (Hebrew mitzvat terumat challah Hebrew: מצוות תרומת חלה) is a positive commandment requiring the owner of a bread dough to give a part of the kneaded dough to a kohen (Jewish Priest). This commandment is one of the twenty-four kohanic gifts.[1]

The common modern practice in Orthodox Judaism is to burn the portion to be given the Kohen, although giving the challah to a Kohen for consumption is permitted - even encouraged[2] - outside Israel (permitted with restrictions, see article below for detail).

In the Hebrew Bible

The origin of the offering is found in Book of Numbers 15:18-20:

Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them, 'When you enter the land where I bring you, then it shall be, that when you eat of the food of the land, you shall lift up an offering to the LORD. Of the first of your dough you shall lift up a cake as an offering; as the offering of the threshing floor, so you shall lift it up. From the first of your dough you shall give to the LORD an offering throughout your generations

Numbers 15:18-21, NASB

In the above passage "cake" is khallah (Heb. חלה) while "of dough" is ʿarisah (Heb. עריסה). The return of the Jews from the Babylonian exile marked a renewal in adherence to numerous commandments, and the dough offering, "the firstfruits of our dough," is listed as one of them (Nehemiah 10:37).[3]

In the Mishnah and Talmud

The Mishnah contains a tractate M. Hallah dealing with the dough offering.[4] Among the rulings are that it was prohibited to set aside dough offering and tithes from dough made from grain harvested after the New Year, in behalf of dough made from "old" grain.[5]

The Talmud Yerushalmi implies that the Mitzvah was given before the sin of the Twelve Spies (Taanit daf 23b)

In Halakha

The halakhic sources for the mitzvah are Shulhan Arukh, Yoreh Deah 322 and Maimonides Bikkurim Chapter 5 Section 1.

The mitzvah of challah, is believed by some textual scholars to originate in the priestly source, and to postdate the Challah law codes as presented in the Torah.[6]

Rabbinical interpretations

Challah, as one of the twenty-four kohanic gifts, was a means of sustenance for the kohanim, who, because of their expected full-time involvement with Temple duties and Torah instruction, did not have land or income derived from it, unlike the other tribes of Israel.

Obadiah ben Jacob Sforno reasons that God wished to negate the negative effect of the sin of The Twelve Spies by establishing this Mitzvah in order that bracha ("divine blessing") should rest in the homes of and on the dough products of the Jews.[7]

Shlomo Ephraim Luntschitz explains that the Land of Israel is sustained by rainfall, whereas crops in Egypt are irrigated by the waters of the Nile river which requires human intervention, making it logical that the first fruits of Israel be presented to God who brings its rainfall.

Other insights on the symbolism of Challah appear in Midrashic and Kabbalistic literature. The Mitzvah of separating challah is traditionally regarded as one of the three Mitzvot performed especially by women.[8]

In some Kabbalistic literature, such as Shlomo HaKohain of Greece's commentary on the Zohar, the performing of this commandment by women, who traditionally did the cooking, uplifts the dough from a state of tevel (spiritual non-readiness) and brings it to a state of khullin (mundane and permitted to its owner), thereby correcting the action of Eve who gave of the forbidden fruit to her husband.[9]

The components of the Mitzvah

The mitzvah of challah is one mitzvah with two parts: (1) separating the required dough (Hafrashat challah), (2) giving the dough to a Kohen (Netinat Challah).[10] Nachmanides[11] as well as the Tosafist Isaiah di Trani[12] explain that it is the actual giving of the Challah portion to the Kohen that is the primary component of the Mitzvah.

Species of grain

According to the Talmud, the requirement to separate Challah from the dough was imposed on the owner of the dough, not on the person who kneaded it; hence if the owner was not Jewish, even if the kneader was, Hafrashat Challah was not mandatory. The requirement does not apply to quantities of less than one omer, neither to bread prepared as animal feed[13] nor to dough prepared from a flour derived from other cereal grains, excepting wheat, barley, oat (var. goatgrass), spelt, or rye (var. wild barley), which grains are obligated.[13][14] Although the Biblical expression when you eat of the bread of the land might be understood as applying only to bread eaten in the Land of Israel, Rabbinic sources interpret that Hafrashat Challah should be observed in the Diaspora as well.

Minimal amount of source dough

The minimal quantity of dough whose preparation mandates the performance of the Mitzvah is quantified by Chazal as a portion of flour equivalent to 43 and 1/5 eggs,[15] also known as one Issaron (one-tenth of an ephah). In modern terms;

  • The quantity that qualifies the reciting of a Brocha is about 1.64 kg.[16]
  • A quantity of flour weighing between 2 lb 11oz (1.23 kg) and 3 lb 11oz (1.666 kg). qualifies for giving Challah but no Brocha is recited[17]

Amount of the actual gift

The Torah does not specify how much dough is required to be given to the Kohen, this is discussed in the Talmud. The rabbinical stipulation is that 1/24 is to be given in the case of private individuals, and 1/48 in the case of a commercial bakery. If the baker forgets to set aside Challah, it is permissible to set aside Challah portion of the bread after it has been baked.

Miscellaneous specifics

The Mitzvah is listed as one in effect in Israel even during the Shmittah (Sabbatical) year.[18] Even the pauper who is entitled to collect Peah and would be exempt from giving Ma'aser (Tithe) is obligated to give Challah from his dough portion. The dough from Maaser Sheni, is likewise not exempt from Challah giving.[19]

Divine consequence

The Mitzvah in modern practice

The consumption of Challah by a Kohen in the Land of Israel is forbidden by Torah law due to the absence of the ashes of the Red Heifer necessary for ritual purity.

With this in mind, the Tosefta,[20] followed by the Rishonim, encouraged the act of separating "Challah" in order that the Mitzvah not be forgotten entirely, along with the full recitation of a blessing before the dough is separated.

The common practice of Diaspora Jewry is to burn the Challah; home bakers fulfill this by tossing the Challah to the back of the oven.[21] However, it is Halachically permitted in the Diaspora to give the separated Challah to a Kohen for consumption,[22] and even encouraged by some Rabbinic authorities,[23] with the provision that the Kohen has immersed in a Mikvah.[24] The Kohen is also required to recite the required Beracha thanking God for sanctifying the Kohanim with the sanctity of Ahron.[25]

Passover Challah from Shmurah Matzah

The commentators to the Shulchan Aruch record that it is the Minhag of some Diaspora Jews to be scrupulous in giving Challah (in this case fully baked passover matzah) from the dough used for baking "Matzot Mitzvah" (the Shmurah Matzah eaten during Passover) to a Kohen minor to eat.[26]

Kohanim of the diaspora have begun initiating requests from Jewish communities and prominent Rabbis to widely implement this Minhag, citing that its implementation would increase in Kiddush Hashem (per the unique brocha requirement) and reawaken awareness of the key component of the mitzvah of challah -the actual giving of the challah to the Kohen.

Daily challah yield

As of 2011, there are approximately 13 shmurah matzah bakeries in the diaspora. Collectively, the amount of challah produced is as follows (approximate):

Shmurah Matzah Bakeryapproximate daily challah yield
Shotzer9 lbs.
Crown heights10.5 lbs.
Boro park10 lbs.
Chareidim (Belz)9 lbs.
Puppa9 lbs.
Satmar (Brooklyn)7 lbs.
Kerestier7 lbs.
Satmar (Monroe)8 lbs.
Montreal9 lbs.
Monsey6 lbs.
Lakewood8 lbs.
Kiryas Yoel7 lbs.
Shotzer8 lbs.

See also


  1. The Talmud of the land of Israel: a preliminary translation 28 p121 Jacob Neusner "Unit II introduces Tosefta's amplification and adds a sizable number of items. It would not be possible more precisely to ... [C] For dough-offering on behalf of dough about which there is a doubt whether or not dough-offering has ..."
  2. Igud HaKohanim, The Torah of Challah; Giving Challah To The Kohen, 2nd ed. 2016, p. 6-24,.
  3. Shaye J. D. Cohen From the Maccabees to the Mishnah 1987 Page 141 "dealings with "the peoples of the land" on the Sabbath: to observe the seventh year ("the year of release"); and to support the temple and its priesthood through a wide variety of offerings (money, wood, first fruits, firstborn, dough,"
  4. Timothy R. Ashley The book of Numbers 1993 p283 - "A whole tractate in the Mishnah is called Halla, based on this word and explicating the so-called dough offering (see esp. 1:1; 2:7; H. Danby, The Mishnah [Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1933], pp. 83-88). 10. Cf. BOB, p. 175a. ..."
  5. Baruch M. Bokser Samuel's commentary on the Mishnah: its nature, forms, and content, Volume 1 1975 "One was prohibited to set aside Dough-offering and tithes from dough made from "new" grain in behalf of dough made from "old" grain. 354 The factor determining whether grain belonged to one year's crop or to the next was whether the ..."
  6. Richard Elliott Friedman Who wrote the Bible? 1987; M. Black, H. H. Rowley Peake's Commentary on the Bible, passim name="pcode">Jewish Encyclopedia, Priestly Code, et passim
  7. Sforno to Numbers 15:20
  8. the others are lighting the Shabbat candles and family purity Talmud Bavli Shabbat
  9. Shlomo HaKohain of Greece שעת רצון על הזוהר Sha'at ratzon al ha Zohar vol. 1 p. 36b
  10. Nodah b'yehudah Mahadura tenyana ch. 201, with the first making the original dough non-Tevel, and the second giving the Separated portion (the "Kodesh") to the Kohein
  11. Nachmanides, Hasagot to the Commandments 12
  12. to Kiddushin ch. 2 (on daf 58b)
  13. 1 2 Jewish Encyclopedia
  14. See: Zohar Amar and El'ad Kapah, The Yemenite Commentary of Rabbi Nathan, President of the Academy, on the Identification of Flora in the Mishnah, pub. in: Mittuv Yosef – Yosef Tobi Jubilee Volume, The Jews of Yemen: History and Culture (vol. 2), Haifa 2011, p. 13 (note 24) (Hebrew), who discusses the identificastion of one of the five grains, shibbolet shu'al (Heb. שבולת שועל), mentioned in Mishnah Pesahim 2:5 and in Mishnah Menahot 10:7, whose leaven is prohibited during Passover. While the Talmudic exegete, Rashi, holds this to be oats, and Maimonides holds it to be a type of "wild barley," Rabbi Nathan called it by its Arabic name sunbulat al-tha'alib (Fox's spike). Another one of the five grains whose leaven is prohibited at Passover is the shiffon (Heb. שיפון), which Rabbi Nathan explains in Mishnah Menahot 10:7 as meaning al-sāfeh (Judeo-Arabic: אלסאפה) and which word, according to Amar, is synonymous with the Arabic word dowsir (Ar. دوسر) - i.e. either one of the cultivated oats (Avena sativa) or Ovate goatgrass (Aegilops geniculata). It is to be noted that Rashi, in his commentary on the Babylonian Talmud (Pesahim 35a), thought that the Hebrew word shiffon meant שיגל"א (= seigle), or what is actually rye (Secale cereale), a grain crop that is not endemic to Israel.
  15. sheiltot of Rav Achai Gaon ch. 73
  16. Maimonides brings down its approximate weight in Egyptian dirhams, writing in Mishnah Eduyot 1:2: "...And I found the rate of the dough-portion in that measurement to be approximately five-hundred and twenty dirhams of wheat flour, while all these dirhams are the Egyptian [dirham]." This view is repeated by Maran's Shulhan Arukh (Hil. Hallah, Yoreh Deah § 324:3) in the name of the Tur. In Maimonides' commentary of the Mishnah (Eduyot 1:2, note 18), Rabbi Yosef Qafih explains that the weight of each Egyptian dirham was approximately 3.333 grammes, which total weight of flour requiring the separation of the dough-portion comes to appx. 1 kilo and 733 grammes. Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef, in his Sefer Halikhot ʿOlam (vol. 1, pp. 288-291), makes use of a different standard for the Egyptian dirham, saying that it weighed appx. 3.0 grammes, meaning the minimum requirement for separating the priest's portion is 1 kilo and 560 grammes. Others (e.g. Rabbi Avraham Chaim Naeh) say the Egyptian dirham weighed appx. 3.205 grammes, which total weight for the requirement of separating the dough-portion comes to 1 kilo and 666 grammes. Rabbi Shelomo Qorah (Chief Rabbi of Bnei Barak) brings down the traditional weight used in Yemen for each dirham, saying that it weighed 3.36 grammes, making the total weight for the required separation of the dough-portion to be 1 kilo and 770.72 grammes.
  17. based on the measurement of Rabbi Chaim Naah as quoted by Y. Fliks in his work הצומח והחי במשנה" במשנה"
  18. talmud bavli, bechorot p. 12
  19. Sifri to Bamidbar 15:21
  20. Tosefta, Challah 4:4
  21. Ramah to Yoreh Deah 322:5
  22. as the Mitzvah of giving Trumath Challah outside Israel is only Rabbinic and not D'oraita
  23. Tosefta, Challah 4:4. Ramban
  24. (prior to consumption) – And no Tumah is being excreted from his Body – Shulchan Aruch HaRav 457:20
  25. Ramah to Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 322:5 (quoted from the Rambam) : " ברוך את ה' אלהינו מלך העולם אשר קדשנו בקדושתו של אהרן וצוונו לאכול תרומה"
  26. Be'er Hetev to Yoreh Deah ch. 322 (minor par. 7), Sha"ch to above chapter
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