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This Shabbos: Shlissel Challah

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A custom in Jewish communities is to bake a Shlissel Challah (Yiddish for key) for the Shabbos after Pesach.

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.

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.