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Pesach - Schlissel Challah


“Tish Talk” by Rabbi Shalom Rubanowitz

Thoughts from your Rabbi for Your Shabbos Table

The Shabbos After Pesach, 5777/2017~ “A Key Exchange”

Have you ever heard of “Schlissel Challah”? that is the custom to insert a (hopefully sterilized) key into the Challah dough, or to bake a Challah in the shape of a key to be enjoyed on the first Shabbos after Pesach.   This Minhag has been around for centuries and more prevalent in Eastern European-based Chasidic communities, but is all the rage today in the La Brea- and even some parts of the- Pico areas. What can the reason possibly be? As a rule, we Jews do our best to stay away from superstitions and customs that lack solid reasoning. While I have heard/seen a number of reasons, I have yet to be satisfied with an explanation that takes this practice out of the occult world for me-until I came up with this idea, which I am trying out on you for size:

Remember how we sold our Chametz and all of our leavened products to gentiles for Passover? Well, many have asserted that the whole idea is a sham. The Chametz never left our homes and the buyer never even had access to our Chametz! What kind of sincere transaction was that? While this matter has been fully addressed by true Rabbinic authorities over the centuries and is widely accepted, many are still left with that uneasy feeling of “being party to some kind of schtick”. To address this issue, a number of authorities have actually insisted that when one transfers the Chametz to a gentile, he or she actually also transfer the ACCESS to the Chametz, as in handing the Rabbi the KEYS to the location where the chametz is stored for hand-over to the gentile when the sale occurs. Armed with this, here is my explanation of the custom:

When we re-introduce Chametz back into our lives, such as enjoying the “first Challah” after Pesach (maybe even baked from ingredients that were stored in our pantry all Pesach) , we bake it with  a key inside or shape it as a key to announce to all: “don’t think we were part of any scam. We actually and truly sold our Chametz. We even gave the Gentile the key-which we just got back!  See? Take a look at the Challah!” . It’s a proclamation of our re-entry into the Chametz world truly recognizing that we honestly and sincerely engaged in the Matzo-Only existence of Passover for 8 days.

Viewing it this way my Challah-and-Chametz-eating friends, there may be  another lesson here for us as well. Our hope is that our Pesach experience, cocooned in the “hot air free” world of a non-leavened spiritual Passover, was one that was transformative. So much so that it’s as if we are now new tenants of our old homes, requiring a new key to re-enter our lives with a higher, purer and empoweringly new holier perspective.  A new ignition key to fire up our existence. Let’s rev up the engines!

Shabbat Shalom!

Shalom Rubanowitz,

at the “Shul on the Beach, Venice,  California.

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