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Challah is a special bread eaten on Shabbat and Jewish holidays (except for Passover). The term challah also refers to a small piece of dough — about the size of an egg — that is traditionally separated from the rest of the dough before braiding. In biblical times, this portion of dough was set aside as a tithe for the Jewish priesthood (see Numbers 15:17-21).

It is customary to eat three meals on Shabbat, and these meals begin with a blessing over two loaves of bread. Challah, an enriched bread, often braided, is traditional. The blessing, "Hamotzi", is the same as for all bread: "Baruch atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech ha'olam, hamotzi lechem min ha'aretz" (translation: "Blessed are you, Lord our God, King of the universe, who brings forth bread from the earth").

Traditional recipes call for a large number of eggs, white flour, and sugar. Modern recipes tend to use fewer eggs (there are also "eggless" versions) and replace white flour with whole wheat, oat, or spelt flour. Sometimes honey or molasses is substituted as a sweetener.

The dough is rolled into rope-shaped pieces which are braided before baking. Poppy, nigella, or sesame seeds may be sprinkled on the bread before baking; the seeds are said to symbolize the manna eaten by the Israelites during their 40-year sojourn in the desert after the Exodus from Egypt. The dough is brushed with egg yolk before baking to add a golden sheen. Sometimes raisins are added. On Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, the Challah may be rolled into a circular shape, symbolizing the cycle of the year.