Friday, May 6, 2016

Shlissel Challah, the Key to making it, the reasons behind it.

There is a minhag to bake shlissel challah (shlissel means key in Yiddish) for the Shabbos after Pesach. Shlisel challos are best known as a segula for parnasa,Some bake the challah with an actual key inside,
some make the challah in the shape of a key and some put sesame seeds on top in the form of a key. The Ohev Yisroel says about shlisel challah that “the minhagim of our fathers are most definitely Torah”. There are many reasons given for this minhag of baking shlissel challah; (Some of the items written below can also be found in Taamei Minhagim, Nitei Gavriel, Sefer Hatoda’a and Minhag Yisroel Torah)

First of all, the second mishna in Rosh Hashanah says on Pesach we are judged on the grains, parnasa. Rabbeinu Nissim asks if we are judged on Rosh Hashana then how are we judged on Pesach? He answers that on Pesach it is determined how much grain there will be in the coming year for the world, but on Rosh Hashana it is decided how much of that grain each individual receives. The Meiri, however, says that on Rosh Hashana it is decided if one will live or die, suffer or not and other such things, but on Pesach is when we are judged on the grains. Based on this there are customs in Sephardic communities to do things Motzei Pesach as a sign that we want Hashem to give us livelihood. In Aram Soba (Syria) and Turkey they put wheat kernels in all four corners of the house on Motzei Pesach as a sign of prosperity for the coming year. (Moed L’kol Chai -R’ Chaim Palagi, Beis Habichira). From a mishna we already see that there is a connection between Pesach and parnasa.

10 Reasons for Shlissel Challa on shabbos after Pesach

1).In Shir Hashirim (which we read on Pesach) it says פִּתְחִי-לִי אֲחֹתִי רַעְיָתִי - “Open for Me, My sister, My beloved". Chazal say that Hashem asks us to open up for Him a small whole like the tip of a needle and He will open up a huge hole for us. Also, Klal Yisroel is called a bride and they are called the bechina (aspect) of bread. During Pesach all the upper gates and minds are open and after Pesach they close and we need to open them. Therefore, we put a key in the challah after Pesach to hint at us opening a small “hole”, through the mitzvah of Shabbos (and, if I might add, the mitzvah of challah) and now Hashem should open up all His good from his storehouses and the heavens like He gave the mon to our fathers in the month of Iyar, and this Shabbos we bless the month of Iyar.

2) After Pesach is when the mon stopped falling and we brought the Omer. From then on we needed to eat from the produce of the ground; we needed parnasa, since untill now we had the mon. It is known that everything has a gate. Therefore just as we daven to Hashem to open up the gates of parnasa we have a minhag to put the form of a key on the challos to allude that Hashem should open up the gates of parnasa for us.

3) During sefira we count 49 days till Shavuos, the 50th day, which is the shaarei bina. We go from gate to gate, and each gate has a key. That is why we make an image of a key on the challah.

4) It says in Shir Hashirim 1:11 תּוֹרֵי זָהָב נַעֲשֶׂה לָּךְ עִם נְקֻדּוֹת הַכָּסֶף - "We will make for you circlets of gold with spots of silver." By the Mishkanit says זהב וכסף ונחשת, putting zahav (gold) before kesef (silver). InBereishis, by the creation of the world, the first day it says Yehi ohrwhich is chesed (which is represented by silver) and the second day represents gevurah, which in turn represents gold. The reason is that by the creation of the world it was pure chesed, as it says “the world was built on chesed” (Tehilim 89,3), therefore chesed, which is representative of kesef, precedes gevurah, which is representative ofzahav. By the Mishkan, however, Hashem had to, so-to-speak, contract (tzimtzum) the Shechina (Divine Presence) to dwell in it, andtzimtzum is from the aspect of gevurah, therefore zahav precedeskesef by the Mishkan. However, the zahav written there has thenekudah (vowel sound) of a פַתַּח (it has a patach instead of the usualkometz), it says זְהַב הַתְּנוּפָה (Shemos 38,24), and that is the nekudaof chesed –the nekuda of chochma. And פתח (the vowel) also means opening like פתח ושער- from there comes all the kindness. Putting it all together, this that we say in Shir Hashirim תּוֹרֵי זָהָב נַעֲשֶׂה לָּךְ עִם נְקֻדּוֹת הַכָּסֶף means the Mishkan was made with zahav, the aspect oftzimtzum, but with the nekuda of kesef, meaning the (word “zahav”,instead of having the usual vowel, kometz, is written with the)nekuda of patach, which is chesed. And the Shabbos after Pesach is always in the second week of sefira which is gevurah, the aspect ofzahav, except that it is menukad with kesef, nekudas patach.Through this we say that we will open up all the gates of blessing and since every gate has a מפתח (key) we make the image of a key on thechallah.

5) The previous four reasons are all brought by the Ohev Yisroel in Shabbos Acher Pesach and Likutim Parshas Shmini. There is a fifth reason brought by the Ohev Yisroel, also based on the posuk תּוֹרֵי זָהָב נַעֲשֶׂה לָּךְ עִם נְקֻדּוֹת הַכָּסֶף, connecting the written and oral Torah tochallah. (See Ohev Yisroel, Shabbos Acher Pesach)

6) The matza we ate on Pesach is supposed to instill in us Yiras Hashem. And Yirah is compared to a key as we see from the following Gemara in Mesechta Shabbos 31a-b: “Rabbah bar Rav Huna said: Any person that has Torah but doesn’t have Yiras Shomayim is comparable to a treasurer who has the keys to the inner parts (of the treasure house) but the keys to the outer area was not handed to him. How can he get to the inner parts (if he can’t first get into the outer parts)?” Therefore we put a key in the challah the Shabbos after Pesach to show we want the Yirah obtained from the matzos to stay with us, because if one has Yirah then the Torah will stay attached to him. (Yismach Yisroel)

7) The Rambam lists out at the beginning of Hilchos Chometz U’Matzathat there are 8 mitzvos (3 positive & 5 negative) involved there. The key we put in the challah alludes to this Rambam: the letters of מפתח (key) spell פ״ת ח׳ מ׳צות. (פ״ת is bread, representing the “chometz” and מ׳ is for matza- these allude to Hilchos Chometz U’Matza, and theח׳ is the 8 mitzvos involved) (Tzvi LaTzadik)

8) The Shabbos after Pesach we make challos that look like matzos, as an allusion to the matzos that were eaten on Pesach Sheini. And we put a key in it to allude to the “gates” being open untill Pesach Sheini. (Imrei Pinchos)

9) The minhag is to put keys in the challah and make them in the form of matzos. The reason is that in these seven weeks of sefira we are supposed to work on our Avodas Hashem until we reach the the level of the first night of Pesach. The way to do this is to put the “left into the right”, meaning mix the trait of ahava (right side) with yirah(left side). In this second week of sefira we have these two traits in our hands, since the first week of sefira is chesed- ahava, and the second week is gevura - yirah. That is why we make the challah look like matza. Matza is representative of the yetzer tov, the right, andchometz is representative of the yetzer horah, the left. Now, we havechallos which are true chometz, in the form of matza; “the left is in the right”, chometz in matza. (Shearis L’Pinchos)

10) There are many reasons given for the shlissel challah, and I say that the shlisel challos are the keys to parnasa. (Segulas HaBeShT V’Talmidov quoting Nachlas Yaakov)



  1. You have 10 reasons to do Shlissel Challah.

    Here is ONE reason not to do Shlissel Challah: Lo Sinachashu.

    1. Do you know of any Rav who agrees with your statement?


    There are enough proofs that show it to be Christian in origin. I do not put my faith in symbolism, only in the Eibishter.

    1. read this article refuting the theory

    2. 1- The proofs don't work. See

      For that matter, the author at twists my words to prove something I disagree with. See my indignation at

      2- is far from mesoretic. They favor the Mishneh Torah over the rulings we actually accepted. (E.g. they argue that Ashkenazim too should hang their mezuzos vertically.)

      3- Lea, do you have a problem with dipping an apple in honey and other such simanei milsa of Rosh haShanah? Those too are symbols.

      The problem isn't with schlissel chalah. If people observed the custom for the kinds of reasons listed in this post, there would be nothing to object to. The problem I have is that it seems to have caught on beyond the original community because of people having magical thinking, trying to get HQBH to give them their wealth through segulah instead of (rather as inspiration for) the hard and long work of earning reward for being a better Jew.

  3. The Rambam would be particularly appalled at number 7.

    1. Why on earth would he have a problem with #7?

    2. Because he would surely resent his words being used to justify a practice that he would class as prohibited d'orayso.

      You are welcome to pasken like those who hold otherwise, but at least acknowledge his position.

  4. I've got a great segula for parnassah. Show up for work and do a jood job.

    1. הרבה עשו ולא עלתה בידם

  5. Schlissel challah is not minhag Lubavitch. The Rebbe writes that it is not the minhag of Lubavitch.