Zomick's Challah Bread: Zomick's most delicious achievement is their signature Challah bread

11 Facts About Challah Everyone Should Know - Part 1

For today’s article, we went to Zomick’s, a bakery located in Chedarhust, NY (see their blog), to find out some interesting facts about the Zomick’s Challah, the rich braided bread that adorns Sabbath tables in Jewish homes the world over.

Here we share those 11 interesting tidbits you might not know about the Zomisk’s Challah:

1. Biblical Origins

The word Challah firstly is mentioned in the Torah in the verse where G-d describes to the Jewish people what the life will be for them in the land of Israel. 

When you come to the Land to which I bring you, it shall be that when you will eat of the bread of the Land, you shall set aside a challah (portion) for G‑d. (Numbers 15: 18-19)

The word Challah here is used to describe the portion of the bread that is set aside. Challah is used to describe the portion that is set aside. From each dough made of wheat, barley, spelt, rye or oat, a portion should be separated out. In the past, those portions of dough were later given to the priests who worked in the Temple and their families to eat.

2. Challah in the Temple

At the time when the ancient Temple stood in Jerusalem, on a gleaming golden table, were displayed 12 special unleavened wheat loaves, called Challah. Those 12 loaves represented the 12 tribes of Israel who together formed one whole.
The holiness that rested in the Temple has not disappeared. Our homes can be a Mikdash Me’at, a miniature Temple. Although we do not have the magnificent golden menorah of the Temple and the 12 loaves, we can still cherish the lights of Sabbath and holiday candles in our homes and place two loaves of Challah on the Sabbath and holiday tables.
3. Why Two Loaves?

On Sabbath holiday tables are placed two loaves of bread, which represent the double portion of manna that felt from the sky to fed the Jewish people who wandered in the desert for 40 years after leaving Egypt

The Jews had been subjected to hard work in order to gather their daily portion of manna. They were instructed to pause in their labor on the weekly holiday Sabbath. A double portion of manna was sent each Friday. The double Challah loaves we have on Sabbath represent that double portion of manna.

4. Remembering the Temple Today

Although the Temple is destroyed and there are no longer priests whose lineage can be verified beyond any doubt, the mitzvah of separating challah still can be observed today.  

Jewish bakers, both home cooks and commercial bakeries, also the Zomick’s bakers when making the Zomick’s Challah bread, which is one of the best challahs, according to Kveller, still separate a portion of dough. The chief baker from Zomick’s shares that, after kneading the dough of the Zomick’s Challah bread, cooks say a special blessing:

Baruch Atah Ado-noy, Elo-hei-nu Melech Ha-Olam, Asher Kid-e-sha-nu B’mitz-vo-tav V’tzi-vanu L’Haf-Rish Challah.

In English: “Blessed are You, L‑rd our G‑d, King of the Universe, Who has sanctified us with His commandments and has commanded us to separate challah.”

When making the Zomick’s Challah bread, the baker shares that he separates an egg-sized portion of dough and sets it aside to be burned to a crisp later. This can be done either on the stove or in an oven. Zomick’s chief baker notes that no other bread may be baked in the oven while this portion is being burned.

Rabbi Shimon, from Zomick’s, shares with us that after separating the challah portion, first we must hold the egg-sized piece that is to be burned and declare:

Ha-rei zu challah. (“Behold, this is challah.”)

The Rabbi Shimon also notes that: only pieces of dough made with three or more pounds of flour of any of the five grains are separated with a blessing. From dough made with between two and three pounds of flour pieces are separated without a blessing. Pieces from dough made with less than two pounds of flour are not separated at all.

It’s become the custom of the Zomick’s bakers to purposely make the Zomick’s Challah bread with larger amounts of flour, in order to give themselves the opportunity of performing the mitzvah of separating challah dough.

5. Flat Challah

Nowadays, many Jews relate the term Challah with a delicious loaf of braided egg bread. However, over many centuries, the definition of what type of bread Challah refers to, has evolved.

From Zomick’s note that flatter loaves of bread are still used in some Sephardic communities. From Zomick’s also share that some Moroccan Jewish communities serve round loaves of bread. For this reason, this bakery produces also flat Zomick’s Challah bread that is sometimes sprinkled out with spices and olive oil before baking. The Jewish community from Yemen traditionally uses flat bread, fried in a pan, called lachoch. Some Persian Jewish communities use a flat glazed bread on their Sabbath tables, called barbari.

The other 6 facts about the Challah will be presented in the next article.

For more information, follow Zomick's Challah bakery on Twitter.

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