10 Facts

The ‘Key’ To Livelihood

The key reminds us that to earn a living, one must do G-d’s will, since the key to livelihood is in his hands. Here are 10 facts about the Key Challah and the mitzvah of Challah in general.
1. There’s a custom that the Shabbat after Passover, in which we also bless the upcoming month of Iyar, to prepare a challah in the form of a key as a Segulah (spiritual remedy) to help earn a living
2. The challah itself can be braided in the form of a key. In the Chassisdic court of Bobov, a regular challah is baked, with a key shape pressed into it. Some people bake the challah with a key inside it.
3. The Segulah is first mentioned by Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Heschel of Apta, author of the Ohev Yisrael: “The custom is from ancient times to stamp the challah of the Sabbath after Pesach with a key. The challah gets a key form on it, and the custom of Israel is Torah.”
4. The reason for the custom is that the manna, the heavenly dish, which the Israelites ate while in the desert, ceased from the day after Pesach when the Jews entered Israel. From then on, Israel began to eat the grain of the land and to work for their livelihood. The language of the “Ohev Yisrael” is: “We pray that the gates of livelihood will open to us. From this came the custom of stamping a key shape on the challahs, to hint that G-d should open the gates of livelihood for us.
5. The key implies that despite the natural effort we must make to earn a livelihood, the key to livelihood is in the hands of the Creator. The key reminds us that in order to make a living, one must do the will of the Creator, since the key to earning a livelihood is in his hands.
6. Here’s a Kabbalistic reason for the key Challah: The key symbolizes the work that man does on his part, as G-d says: “Open the hole for me like the eye of a needle, and I will open to you the door of a hall.” We begin opening that ‘hole’ after Passover with the mitzvah of Shabbat, Challah and counting the Omer, and the Holy One, Blessed be He, will open wide the entrance of his good treasure for us like a great hall. And He will fulfill the verse: “And he commanded the heavens above and He opened the gates of heaven.”
7. In order to separate challah properly you must do many other mitzvoth beforehand and afterward. They are: Keeping kosher, washing hands, blessing before eating, and blessing the food after eating.
8. Separating Challah is a positive biblical commandment that requires a Jew who prepares dough to give (some of the dough) a gift to the priest. This mitzvah is considered one of the 613 commandments, and it is one of the twenty-four priestly gifts.
9. The prayer that is recited after the taking of Challah begins: “May the will of the Lord, our God and the God of our forefathers, consider my mitzvah of separating Challah as if I fulfilled it in all its details and rules. May it be considered a sacrifice brought on the altar and willfully accepted. Just as in the time of the temple challah would be given to the Cohen and the giver would be purified from his sins so too should my separating the challah purify me from my sins so I will be considered as if I was born again and my husband and I will be able to observe the mitzvot of the holy Sabbath and holidays (with my husband) (and our children), to be nourished by the sanctity of these days. May the merit of mitzvah of Challah bring that our children will always be nourished by the Holy One, blessed be He, with His mercy and kindness and with love. May G-d accept my doing the commandment of separating Challah as if I had given a tithe, and just as I observe mitzvos with all my heart, so too may the mercy of the Holy One, blessed be He, be aroused preserved over me to protect me from sorrow and pain all the days.
10. Thanks to the Mitzvah of separating Challah, we receive many blessings. Since Challah is called a donation, it is included in the blessing cited in Malachi: “And you should test me about this (giving tithes) if I don’t open the windows of the heavens and pour endless blessings on you.”  The prophet Ezekiel also mentions special blessings to those who fulfill this commandment: “And the first of your dough shall be given to the priest to rest a blessing upon your house.” It is further explained in the Midrash that the commandment of challah is unique in that King David’s sins pertaining to Uriah the Hittite were cleansed by fulfilling this commandment.


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