The Parliament Blog

Rosh Hashana’s Sacred Bread Offers Meaning in Many Shapes and Sizes

The traditional challah for the upcoming Jewish holiday, Rosh Hashana, is round. But as this bakery demonstrates, other shapes offer symbolic meanings. Photo from Getty Images.

by Deena Prichep
from National Public Radio

Challah is a rich, eggy bread baked every week for the Jewish sabbath, or shabbat. But for Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year that starts at sundown, it gets a few tweaks. There’s a little extra honey or sugar, for a sweet new year. And instead of the usual long braid, it’s round.

Mimi Wilhelm, who bakes challah for her family every week, teaches a challah-making class through Chabad Oregon. “The reason that we do the round challah, versus the braids, for Rosh Hashana, is because the year is round, it represents that idea. This looks like a crown, for crowning God as king on Rosh Hashana.”

But crowns and braids aren’t the only shapes around. Charles Levy grew up in Morocco and is now the president of Congregation Ahavath Achim, Portland’s Sephardic temple, which is largely made up of Jews of non-Eastern European descent. Growing up, he saw Rosh Hashana challahs in all sorts of forms. “Some of the people in Morocco will emulate animals, like a swan, or often you’ll have a head-like lion, lion of David. Or gdi, which is like a gazelle, a very fine and good-looking animal,” he says.

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September 24th, 2012 at 11:55 am


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