Origins of the Non-Jewish Custom Of 'Shlissel Challah'
year Jewish women, young and old, partake in a custom
known to many Ashkenazim, to place a key (such as a
door key to a home), inside the dough of a loaf of bread
that they bake. This custom is known as shlissel
challah -- shlissel from the German language
shlüssel (key) and challah or hallah
from the Hebrew for bread. While a metal key is often
baked within the bread, some form the bread itself into
the shape of a key or even arrange sesame seeds on top
in the form of a key. Often times, these women gather
in celebratory groups with the common belief that baking
the shlissel challah will bring blessing into
their homes, and specifically, the blessing of increased
fiscal livelihood. There is also a seemingly new 'custom'
of baking shlissel challah in the "merit"
of a sick person, as a way of helping them recover from
physical disease or trauma. A poll on the popular Orthodox
Jewish website imamother.com asked participants:
"How do you make your schlissel [sic] challah?"
The 88 respondants reported: In the shape of a key 13%
; With a key baked in it 61% ; Neither, I don't
do this 17% ; Other 7% .
baking of a key inside a bread is a non-Jewish custom
which has its foundation in Christian, and possibly
even earlier, pagan culture. At least one old Irish
source tells how at times when a town was under attack,
the men said, "let our women-folk be instructed
in the art of baking cakes containing keys." [continued]
to the Editor - A Response to the 5 Town Jewish Times