Hebrew In Israel | Challah – Learn Torah

challah, bread

Hebrew In Israel | Challah – Learn Torah

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Challah bread is the most common bread for Shabbat in Jewish circles, and in many cases is the common bread used before and after Shabbat.  This word actually has its origins in Biblical Hebrew.  The word חלה Challah is probably from the word חלל which in this context means “hollow”.  The idea is that the bread rises to a thickness which creates the small cavities.

In Arabic this word means “to stab, make holes”.  What is interesting is that the same word is used to describe unleavened bread in Leviticus 2:4 under the term חלות מצת which means “Unleavened thin bread”.  If the above interpretation is correct, this demonstrates the flexibility of Hebrew words and borrowed used in places where usually they would mean something else.

Another interpretation is that it is from the word חול meaning circle.  The idea is that we are dealing with a round bread.  This one is weaker because round breads are not that unique and it would not be clear how this fits into the over all idea of the preparation element in our text.

A third possibility is from the Akkadian “ellu” which means “Holy”.  This again does not fit into the idea of preparation, and the fact that all the breads mentioned in the text are all holy.  A different Akkadian word that might be more fitting is “elu” which means “to rise”.  This is more fitting for a bread which rises and becomes thick.

Source: M. Qedari Dictionary of Biblical Hebrew”

“Olam Hatannak-Leviticus”, M. Wienfeld-Editor

Harrassowitz V. “A Concise Dictionary of Akkadian”


Originally Published: 8 April 2016

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