Why do Kosher Bakers Pull Off a Small Piece of Unbaked Dough & Toss Into Fire?
I notice that when preparing challah, kosher bakers pull off a small piece of the unbaked dough and toss it in the fire prior to coating their braided challah with egg and baking it. Why is this done?
This is a commandment that comes from the time we reached the Promised Land when H’ told Moses to apportion land to all the Children of Israel except for the Kohanim and Leviim, who were placed in the very pure status of caring for the Holy Ark. Since that meant that they could not raise animals or grow crops, H’ commanded that the rest of the community provide them with food and their material needs. So, it was ordained that 1/24th of a family’s weekly bread be “taken” and allotted to the Kohanim.
As the centuries progressed with a history that forced many changes, Kohanim and Leviim became assimilated into everyday life, but are still recognized for their status in services at Torah reading and for priestly blessings during certain holidays.
However, the custom of “taking the Challah” continues among observant Jews, but now, since the Kohanim are no longer in absolute service to the Holy Temple, it is the custom to “take” an olive-size piece of dough from the unbaked challah, throw it in a fire or place it in a piece of foil and bake it in the oven until it is burnt. There is a blessing that they recite to H’ for commanding us to “separate the challah”.
So, now that you know, enjoy your challah, and be sure to say the blessing, because an amazing thing happens when you say ‘Ha-Motzei and put a piece of challah in your mouth, the flavor just explodes. Enjoy!