Guest Posting By A Talmid - Shlissel Challah
There is a minhag to bake shlissel challah (shlissel means key in Yiddish)
for the Shabbos after Pesach. Shlisel challos are best known as a segula for
parnasa, though there are other reasons for it, as we will soon see. 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. We will discuss
this later on. The Ohev Yisroel says about shlisel challah that "the
minhagim of our fathers are most definitely Torah". There are many reasons
given for this minhag of baking shlissel challah; we will go through some of
them. (Some of the items written below can also be found in Taamei Minhagim,
Nitei Gavriel, Sefer Hatoda'a and Minhag Yisroel Torah)
First of all, 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. Based on this there are customs in Sephardic
communities to do things Motzei Pesach as a sign that we want Hashem to give
us livelihood. In Aram Soba (Syria) and Turkey they put wheat kernels in all
four corners of the house on Motzei Pesach as a sign of prosperity for the
coming year. (Moed L'kol Chai -R' Chaim Palagi, Beis Habichira). From a
mishna we already see that there is a connection between Pesach and parnasa.
Reasons for Shlissel Challa
1).In Shir Hashirim (which we read on Pesach) it says פִּתְחִי-לִי אֲחֹתִי
רַעְיָתִי - "Open for Me, My sister, My beloved". Chazal say 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, Klal Yisroel is 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 Shabbos (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 mon to our fathers in the month
of Iyar, and this Shabbos we bless the month of Iyar.
2) After Pesach is when the mon stopped falling and we brought the Omer.
From then on we needed to eat from the produce of the ground; we needed
parnasa, since untill now we had the mon. It is known that everything has a
gate. Therefore just as we daven to Hashem to open up the gates of parnasa
we have a minhag to put the form of a key on the challos to allude that
Hashem should open up the gates of parnasa for us.
3) During sefira we count 49 days till Shavuos, the 50th day, which is the
shaarei bina. We go from gate to gate, and each gate has a key. That is why
we make an image of a key on the challah.
4) It says in Shir Hashirim 1:11 תּוֹרֵי זָהָב נַעֲשֶׂה לָּךְ עִם נְקֻדּוֹת
הַכָּסֶף - "We will make for you circlets of gold with spots of silver." By
the Mishkan it says זהב וכסף ונחשת, putting zahav (gold) before kesef
(silver). In Bereishis, by the creation of the world, the first day it says
Yehi ohr which is chesed (which is represented by silver) and the second day
represents gevurah, which in turn represents gold. The reason is that by the
creation of the world it was pure chesed, as it says "the world was built on
chesed" (Tehilim 89,3), therefore chesed, which is representative of kesef,
precedes gevurah, which is representative of zahav. By the Mishkan, however,
Hashem had to, so-to-speak, contract (tzimtzum) the Shechina (Divine
Presence) to dwell in it, and tzimtzum is from the aspect of gevurah,
therefore zahav precedes kesef by the Mishkan. However, the zahav written
there has the nekudah (vowel sound) of a פַתַּח (it has a patach instead of
the usual kometz), it says זְהַב הַתְּנוּפָה (Shemos 38,24), and that is the
nekuda of chesed –the nekuda of chochma. And פתח (the vowel) also means
opening like פתח ושער- from there comes all the kindness. Putting it all
together, this that we say in Shir Hashirim תּוֹרֵי זָהָב נַעֲשֶׂה לָּךְ עִם
נְקֻדּוֹת הַכָּסֶף means the Mishkan was made with zahav, the aspect of
tzimtzum, but with the nekuda of kesef, meaning the (word "zahav", instead
of having the usual vowel, kometz, is written with the) nekuda of patach,
which is chesed. And the Shabbos after Pesach is always in the second week
of sefira which is gevurah, the aspect of zahav, except that it is menukad
with kesef, nekudas patach. Through this we say that we will open up all the
gates of blessing and since every gate has a מפתח (key) we make the image of
a key on the challah.
5) The previous four reasons are all brought by the Ohev Yisroel in Shabbos
Acher Pesach and Likutim Parshas Shmini. There is a fifth reason brought by
the Ohev Yisroel, also based on the posuk תּוֹרֵי זָהָב נַעֲשֶׂה לָּךְ עִם
נְקֻדּוֹת הַכָּסֶף, connecting the written and oral Torah to challah. (See
Ohev Yisroel, Shabbos Acher Pesach)
6) The matza we ate on Pesach is supposed to instill in us Yiras Hashem. And
Yirah is compared to a key as we see from the following Gemara in Mesechta
Shabbos 31a-b: "Rabbah bar Rav Huna said: Any person that has Torah but
doesn't have Yiras Shomayim is comparable to a treasurer who has the keys to
the inner parts (of the treasure house) but the keys to the outer area was
not handed to him. How can he get to the inner parts (if he can't first get
into the outer parts)?" Therefore we put a key in the challah the Shabbos
after Pesach to show we want the Yirah obtained from the matzos to stay with
us, because if one has Yirah then the Torah will stay attached to him.
7) The Rambam lists out at the beginning of Hilchos Chometz U'Matza that
there are 8 mitzvos (3 positive & 5 negative) involved there. The key we put
in the challah alludes to this Rambam: the letters of מפתח (key) spell פ״ת
ח׳ מ׳צות. (פ״ת is bread, representing the "chometz" and מ׳ is for matza-
these allude to Hilchos Chometz U'Matza, and theח׳ is the 8 mitzvos
involved) (Tzvi LaTzadik)
8) The Shabbos after Pesach we make challos that look like matzos, as an
allusion to the matzos that were eaten on Pesach Sheini. And we put a key in
it to allude to the "gates" being open untill Pesach Sheini. (Imrei Pinchos)
9) The minhag is to put keys in the challah and make them in the form of
matzos. The reason is that in these seven weeks of sefira we are supposed to
work on our Avodas Hashem until we reach the the level of the first night of
Pesach. The way to do this is to put the "left into the right", meaning mix
the trait of ahava (right side) with yirah (left side). In this second week
of sefira we have these two traits in our hands, since the first week of
sefira is chesed- ahava, and the second week is gevura - yirah. That is why
we make the challah look like matza. Matza is representative of the yetzer
tov, the right, and chometz is representative of the yetzer horah, the left.
Now, we have challos which are true chometz, in the form of matza; "the left
is in the right", chometz in matza. (Shearis L'Pinchos)
10) There are many reasons given for the shlissel challah, and I say that
the shlisel challos are the keys to parnasa. (Segulas HaBeShT V'Talmidov
quoting Nachlas Yaakov)
Different ways of making Shlissel Challah
As mentioned above (reasons 8 and 9) there are those that make the challah
round and flattish for this Shabbos, in the image of matza.
Some make the challah in the shape of a key.
Some attach a piece of dough in the shape of a key. Breslov Customs for
Pesach (page 57) says this is the minhag of the family of Reb Elazar Kenig
shlita and of Manistritch.
Sefer Hatoda'ah mentions making the image of a key with sesame seeds on top
of the challah. These first three customs can, perhaps, be seen from the
wording of the Ohev Yisroel in one place where he says we put the image of a
key on the challah.
Some place an actual key in the challah. Perhaps this is done because of the
wording in many places of indenting the challah with a key.
Either way it is done the key or image of the key is usually on top. An
interesting observation about this. The Gemara quoted by the Yismach Yisroel
(reason 6), about the key, is at the top of daf 31b. At the bottom of the
daf is the mishna mentioning the women's mitzvah of challah. Here to the key
is on top and the challah on the bottom.
The Gemara in Taanis says there are three keys that Hashem controls
directly, without the assistance of Malachim. They are rain, which the
Gemara explains is parnasa, childbirth (or conception) and techias hameisim.
If I may humbly add, when we are making the challah to have in mind the
parnasa of others also, and also those who don't have children and most
importantly daven for techias hamaeisim.
Either way one performs this minhag they are all correct and all have holy
sources. When I started writing this I did not realize how much information
there was on this minhag which is done only once a year. I learnt a valuable
lesson. Every minhag and of course every mitzvah has many holy reasons
behind it and it's not done just because someone decided this is a nice
thing to do, as some say. The more I looked into shlissel challah the more I
found in seforim written by Rabbonim who were geonim in every part of Torah,
nistar and nigleh, and tzadikim in every aspect, between "man and God" and
"between man and man". They were able to understand reasons for every little
action we do as a way of serving Hashem. May we all be blessed with parnasa
berevach together with all of Klal Yisroel.
A Talmid's blog Zchus Avos Yogen Aleinu can be seen here.
Note: See here for instructions on how to fulfill the mitzvah of separating
challah - the most important part of baking challah. (There are also recipes
for those that need). It is said in the name of Reb Dovid of Tolna that one
should make sure the dough separated as challah is burnt completely until no
part of it is edible. In addition to being the ideal way to burn the
challah, he says that if a davar tamei eats the unburnt challah it can cause
ones children to go off the derech, chas v'shalom.
posted by A Simple Jew
Rabbi Tal Zwecker added
The segulah that I recieved from my Rebbe the Clevelander Rebbe Shlit"a
of Ra'anana is that on the first Shabbos after Pesach you "knead the challah
dough" with a key. In fact that is the custom recorded and found in the
sefer Ohev Yisroel of the Apta Rebbe. Our custom is to (I wash the key first
in soap and hot water) knead the challah dough and poke the key into the
dough while recting the open the shaarim prayers found in most zemiros
bentchers at the end of the zemiros for Melave Malka where we ask Hashem to
open many gates for us. Other people I have seen also bake a key shape on
the challah but I didnt recieve any such tradition.
A Talmid said...
The Ohev Yisroel says לשבת שאחר הפסח המנהג הוא מימים קדמונים לנקוב את
החלות בשבת שלאחר פסח במפתחות, ונעשה על החלה צורת מפתח
In at least 3 other places the Ohev Yisroel uses similar wording to
ונעשה על החלה צורת מפתח. This is probably where the minhag of some to bake a
key shape image on the challah comes from.