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The Mitzvah of Hafrashat Challah Part II

Author: Rabbi Josh Flug
Article Date: Wednesday September 06, 2006

 
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Last week's issue discussed the mitzvah of hafrashat challah - specifically the term "challah" and the differences between Eretz Yisrael and Chutz La'Aretz. This week's issue will focus on some of the practical aspects of the mitzvah of hafrashat challah.

The Minimum Size Requirement of the Dough
The Mishna, Challah 2:6, states that there is no requirement to perform the mitzvah of hafrashat challah unless one kneads at least one and one-quarter kavin of dough. Rif, Pesachim 23b, states that this is the equivalent of the volume of forty-three and one-fifth eggs. Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De'ah 324:1, codifies this size as halacha.

There is a dispute between R. Avraham C. Na'eh, (Shiurei Torah) and R. Avraham Y. Karelitz, Chazon Ish, Orach Chaim no. 39, regarding the halachic size of a beitzah (an egg). The dispute revolves around the resolution to a fundamental problem in calculating the size of the beitzah. The Gemara, Pesachim 109a, states that the volume of a revi'it (a quarter of a log) is 2x2x2.7 etzba'ot (fingers). If one assumes that the etzbah is 2.4 cm (as Chazon Ish assumes), the revi'it is 149.3 cubic centimeters (cc). A beitzah is 2/3 of a revi'it (Rashi, Shemot 16:36 and Eiruvin 83a, s.v. D'Midbarit), and therefore, the beitzah measures 99.5 cc (149.3 cc x 2/3 = 99.5 cc). However, the volume of an average egg (excluding the shell) is approximately 50cc, or about half of the calculation of the beitzah when using the Gemara's formula. Chazon Ish rules that one should follow the calculation that is based on the etzbah (unless there is a leniency in following the larger size). As such, the size of 43.2 beitzim is 4298.4 cc, which is the equivalent of 145.3 fluid ounces or 18.2 cups of flour (approximately 5 pounds of flour by weight). This is the amount of flour necessary to recite a beracha on hafrashat challah according to Chazon Ish. Those who wish to follow the stringencies of the smaller size separate challah without reciting a beracha if 9.1 cups of flour (approximately 2.5 pounds of flour by weight) are used.

R. Na'eh assumes that the average etzbah is 2.0cm. As such, the beitzah measures 57.6 cc. Furthermore, R. Na'eh contends that when one measures an egg, one includes the shell. The average egg with the shell measures approximately 57.7cc. Therefore, there is no discrepancy between the Gemara's calculation and the average size of the egg. Accordingly, 43.2 beitzim is 2488.3 cc, which is the equivalent of 84.1 fluid ounces or 10.5 cups of flour (approximately 2.9 pounds, by weight). R. Na'eh recommends separating challah without reciting a beracha if 1875cc (7.9 cups, 2.2 pounds, by weight) of flour is used. [This measurement is based on a tradition that the amount of flour for the mitzvah of hafrashat challah is 3 Polish quarts (see Shach, Yoreh De'ah 324:3). R. Na'eh notes that if one uses the Polish quart, one must conclude that the etzbah is 1.8 cm, a conclusion that he finds difficult to accept. However, R. Na'eh states that since this measurement was used for many generations as the accepted measurement, one should separate challah without reciting a beracha. See Shiurei Torah, ch. 3, note 10.]

Performing the Mitzvah of Hafrashat Challah on Erev Shabbat
Rama, Orach Chaim 242:1, writes that there is a minhag to knead a shiur challah (the amount necessary to perform the mitzvah of hafrashat challah) on Erev Shabbat and to use that dough for all of the bread necessary for the Shabbat meals. Magen Avraham 242:7, provides two reasons for this minhag. First, the minhag serves to ensure that people eat pat Yisrael (bread baked by a Jew) on Shabbat. Although it is permissible to eat bread that was baked by a non-Jewish baker (see Shulchan Aruch and Rama, Yoreh De'ah 112:2), Ran, Rosh HaShanah 12b, s.v. Garsinan B'Yerushalmi, notes that during the Aseret Yemei Teshuva, it is proper to eat pat Yisrael exclusively, due to the holy nature of these days. Magen Avraham suggests that the same should apply to Shabbat.

Second, Magen Avraham (as explained by Machatzit HaShekel, ad loc.) suggests that the reason one should knead a shiur challah is based on the Midrash. Midrash Tanchuma, Parshat Noach no.1, states that the reason that women are given particular scrutiny in their performance of the mitzvah of hafrashat challah is because the mitzvah of hafrashat challah serves as atonement for the sin of Chavah, who caused mankind to be expelled from Gan Eden. As such, the most appropriate day to fulfill this atonement is Erev Shabbat, the day of the birth of mankind.

Dough that is Apportioned into Multiple Loaves
The Talmud Yerushalmi, Challah 1:5, states that if one kneads dough with the requisite shiur challah with the intent of baking it in pieces that are smaller than the shiur challah, there is no requirement to separate challah from that dough. Ostensibly, the case is one where an individual kneads a large dough and distributes it to other people. However, Tosafot, Berachot 37b, s.v. Lechem, quote Rabbeinu Yechiel who rules that one should not recite a beracha on the hafrashat challah of one dough that was meant to be baked as multiple loaves, even if all of the loaves belong to one individual.

If one accepts the ruling of Rabbeinu Yechiel, one would only recite a beracha on hafrashat challah if one bakes a loaf comprised of a shiur challah of flour. The Vilna Gaon, Biur HaGra, Yoreh De'ah 326:7, notes this conclusion proves that the opinion of Rabbeinu Yechiel was never accepted because "our fathers and our forefathers have always had the tradition of separating challah for Shabbat and Yom Tov." It is impossible to assume that they only made one loaf because Shabbat and Yom Tov require lechem mishneh (two whole loaves at each meal). The Vilna Gaon concludes that the ruling of the Yerushalmi is only applicable if one intends to distribute the dough to other people.

Nevertheless, other Acharonim accept the ruling of Rabbeinu Yechiel, but limit the applications of his ruling. Chazon Ish, Yoreh De'ah 198:3, suggests that the ruling of Rabbeinu Yechiel is only applicable if one is apportioning the dough because he needs a specific size of dough or a specific number of loaves from the dough. If one is apportioning the dough because he prefers to eat smaller loaves rather than one large ones, Rabbeinu Yechiel's rule does not apply. [Regarding loaves that are baked for Shabbat, it is possible that Chazon Ish will agree that Rabbeinu Yechiel's ruling does not apply if there is enough dough to bake six (or four) small loaves, each the size of a k'zayit, in addition to a shiur challah. In such a situation, the additional dough is not apportioned to bake a specific number of loaves but because people prefer to eat loaves larger than a k'zayit on Shabbat.]

R. Efraim Z. Margulies, Beit Efraim, Yoreh De'ah no. 169, suggests that Rabbeinu Yechiel's ruling only applies if at the time of the kneading of the dough one intends to apportion the pieces such that those pieces will never reunite as dough or as bread. However, if one intends to bake the loaves together in the same oven, or to place them in the same breadbasket, Rabbeinu Yechiel's ruling does not apply.

R. Yom Tov L. Heller, Divrei Chamudot, Hilchot Challah no. 20, suggests that Rabbeinu Yechiel's ruling only applies if one bakes part of the dough on one day and part of the dough on a different day. If the dough is all baked at one time (even if all of the loaves are not in the oven at the same time), R. Yechiel's ruling does not apply.

It should be noted that if one kneads a shiur challah and freezes part of the dough in order to bake it at a later point in time, R. Yechiel's ruling would likely apply according to Chazon Ish, Beit Efraim and Divrei Chamudot. The only basis to recite a beracha in such a situation is if one follows the opinion of the Vilna Gaon that Rabbeinu Yechiel's ruling is rejected.