Why is it that all year long challah is braided, but for Rosh Hashanah it is round? What does the shape of challah mean?
Find the answers rooted in tradition
Every Jewish custom has deep and significant meaning, and the changing shape of challah
and how it is served is one of them.
During the rest of the year, challah is traditionally dipped in salt before distribution for a number of reasons. But at Rosh Hashanah, challah is enjoyed with honey to signify an upcoming sweet year. Additionally, at Rosh Hashanah, apples may be dipped in honey and prayers are said for a good and sweet upcoming year.
The shape of challah
is a lesson about the holiday on which it is consumed.
The Shabbat challah is braided. Part of preparing for the Shabbat is engaging in creative activity, and braiding is most definitely a creative activity. Braiding signifies the human ability to shape the world about us. But many believe that braiding is more than just this.
Tradition tells us that Eve’s hair was braided for her wedding with Adam as a way to unleash her creative energies and help her see the world in an ordered form to help her become a good wife. The braid represents focus and order to energize one’s household.
Many loaves of challah have six braids, the number of days in the week that are not Shabbat. Six directs us to the one day of Shabbat and directs us to what we are to accomplish.
Round challahs are different. They are unique to the High Holiday season. It may represent a crowning or it may also represent the cycle of nature. Other traditions hold that the circle may represent how the years repeat even though round challahs are not really round but spiral.
The shape of the Rosh Hashanah challah tells us it is time to make positive choices in our lives, to seek and create a spiritual world. It is time to lift ourselves out of repetition and work to a higher and more spiritual new year.
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