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Key Challah

04/11/2018 12:49:07 PM


There is a minhag (custom) to bake Key Challah for the Shabbat after Pesach. Key Challah is best known as a segula (good luck charm) for parnasa (livelihood), though there are also other reasons for it. Some bake the challah with an actual key inside, some make the challah in the shape of a key and some put sesame seeds on top in the form of a key. There are those who make the challah flat to look like matzos.

The second mishna in Rosh Hashanah says on Pesach we are judged on the grains, parnasa. Rabbeinu Nissim asks, if we are judged on Rosh Hashana then how are we judged on Pesach? He answers that on Pesach it is determined how much grain there will be in the coming year for the world, but on Rosh Hashana it is decided how much of that grain each individual receives. The Meiri, however, says that on Rosh Hashana it is decided if one will live or die, suffer or not and other such things, but on Pesach is when we are judged on the grains, parnasa.

Reasons for the Key Challa

1) In Shir Hashirim it says פִּתְחִי-לִי אֲחֹתִי רַעְיָתִי -“Open for Me, My sister, My beloved". The Midrash explains that Hashem asks us to open up for Him a small whole like the tip of a needle and He will open up a huge hole for us. Also, the Jewish people are called a bride and they are called the bechina (aspect) of bread. During Pesach all the upper gates and minds are open and after Pesach they close and we need to open them. Therefore, we put a key in the challah after Pesach to hint at us opening a small “hole”, through the mitzvah of Shabbat (and, if I might add, the mitzvah of challah) and now Hashem should open up all His good from his storehouses and the heavens like He gave the Manna to our fathers in the month of Iyar, and this Shabbat we bless the month of Iyar.

2) According to the Kabbalah, on Pesach the gates to heaven were open, and following Pesach the lower gates are shut, and it’s up to us to open them again, therefore on the first Shabbat we put the key on the challah to show that through the mitzvah of Shabbat we are opening the locks.

3) After Pesach is when the Manna stopped falling and we brought the Omer. From then on we needed to eat from the produce of the ground; we needed parnasa, since until now we had the Manna. It is known that everything has a gate. Therefore just as we pray to Hashem to open up the gates of parnasa we have a custom to put the form of a key on the challot to allude that Hashem should open up the gates of parnasa for us.

Tue, July 17 2018 5 Av 5778