A Star-K discussion of challah states:

If one bakes without using any water, but rather bakes using only fruit juice or vegetable oil, a bracha is not recited and one cannot burn the Challah.

Due to the complexity regarding this halacha, the Shulchan Aruch advises that one should always use water when baking a shiur hachayav b’challah.

The reason is as follows: Challah can only be burned when it is tamai (impure). To become tamai, it must first become “muchsher L’kabel tumah.” This means water or other specific liquids have come in contact with the challah. If none of these specified liquids are used, the challah can never become tamai and therefore can not be burned and a bracha is not recited.

Why must challah be tamai when it is burned?


1 Answer 1


Contrary to popular belief, challah isn't supposed to be burned. It is food for the priests (kohanim) and their families to eat. Eating it is a mitzva with a special blessing (YD 322:5). It's such a holy mitzva that both the priest and the challah must be pure (Leviticus 22:4). Desecrating pure challah is also not allowed (Rambam Terumot 12:1). If the priest becomes impure he can purify himself, but if the challah accidentally becomes impure there's no solution so unfortunately it must be burned not unlike other invalid sacrifices.

Nowadays when virtually all priests can't fully purify themselves, the challah won't generally be eaten anyway. If it were pure you'd have to just let it sit there till it rots away or accidentally becomes impure, so it's very convenient to render the whole dough impure before declaring a piece holy. That way you can go ahead and burn it and be done with it. But that's just a temporary life-hack until the priests can get back to eating it.

  • 2
    The New York Times fell for that (mistaken) popular belief too, by the way: The word challah originally meant only the small portion of dough that was put in the oven when baking bread as a reminder of the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/7199-my-favorite-challah
    – Shalom
    Commented May 21 at 14:23
  • @Shalom Oy vey!
    – Double AA
    Commented May 21 at 14:24
  • Hey, they've gotten worse wrong ... but I'd never thought about this -- companies that make "mezonos pizza", "mezonos bread", and the like using only fruit juice -- what do they do about challah? (Putting aside the whole it's-just-mezonos claim ...)
    – Shalom
    Commented May 21 at 14:26
  • 1
    I should note this answer elides two side considerations: 1) there may be a mitzva to separate a second piece of pseudo-challah for the kohein to eat even after the first is burnt so that kohanim still get their food, 2) challah in the diaspora is more lenient than in Israel and impure kohanim (in certain cases) may be allowed to eat it.
    – Double AA
    Commented May 21 at 14:26
  • 1
    @Shalom I assume they add 1 drop of water. Better question is egg matza (maybe add one drop of wine?)
    – Double AA
    Commented May 21 at 14:27

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