Note: Our series of arti­cles on the mitz­vah of chal­lah advo­cates giv­ing the chal­lah to the kohen for con­sump­tion in chutz l’aretz


The mitz­vah of sep­a­rat­ing chal­lah (or ראשית עריסותיכם, the “first of your dough”) was first com­manded to the chil­dren of Israel when they where camped in the desert before enter­ing the land of Israel — the actual ini­ti­a­tion of this mitz­vah began upon enter­ing the land;

בְּבאֲכֶם אֶל הָאָרֶץ..וְהָיָה בַּאֲכָלְכֶם מִלֶּחֶם הָאָרֶץ תָּרִימוּ תְרוּמָה לַה’ רֵאשִׁית עֲרִסתֵכֶם חַלָּה..תִּתְּנוּ לַה’ תְּרוּמָה לְדרתֵיכֶם

When you come to the land..and  when you eat from the bread of the land you should raise trumah to hashem.  The first of your dough –chal­lah– you should give to hashem  –for your gen­er­a­tions.

במדבר פרק טו -

Note how the verse doesn’t say here “give it to the kohen” it actu­ally reads “give it to hashem”.  It is only four chap­ters later where the Torah explains that it is the kohen, his sons and daugh­ters (the bat-kohen) whom are the des­ig­nated per­sons to con­sume this holy bread;

וַיְדַבֵּר ה’ אֶל אַהֲרן וַאֲנִי הִנֵּה נָתַתִּי לְךָ אֶת מִשְׁמֶרֶת תְּרוּמתָי לְכָל קָדְשֵׁי בְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל לְךָ נְתַתִּים לְמָשְׁחָה וּלְבָנֶיךָ לְחָק עוֹלָם..וְזֶה לְּךָ תְּרוּמַת מַתָּנָם לְכָל תְּנוּפת בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל לְךָ נְתַתִּים וּלְבָנֶיךָ וְלִבְנתֶיךָ אִתְּךָ לְחָק עוֹלָם כָּל טָהוֹר בְּבֵיתְךָ יאכַל אתוֹ.  כל חֵלֶב יִצְהָר וְכָל חֵלֶב תִּירוֹשׁ וְדָגָן רֵאשִׁיתָם אֲשֶׁר יִתְּנוּ לַה’ לְךָ נְתַתִּים

And hashem spoke to Ahron;   And I, hereby, give you ..all the best of the vine­yard and grain their firsts that they give to hashem –to you I give.

במדבר, פרק יח

The Sifri explains that the words “(their firsts that they give) to hashem (-to you I give)” refer to the chal­lah sep­a­rated from the dough be given to the kohen. (Sifri to פרשת קרח)

What does “chal­lah” mean?    In mishna, tosefta, tal­mud and poskim the term chal­lah is given –not to what is com­monly called “chal­lah” bread– but to the part sep­a­rated from the dough –or bread– with the intent to be given to הקדוש ברוך הוא.


What is done

Today’s chal­lah pro­ce­dure in the land of Israel is sim­ple but a bit less excit­ing; a por­tion of dough is sep­a­rated, a bless­ing is made, it is then burnt.

But what then hap­pend to Gods com­mand­ment of “ראשית עריסותיכם תתנו” -“the first of your dough the yis­roel should give to hashem”? if so, why is it burnt and not given? The com­monly cited rea­son is that chal­lah is given by the torah the title of  “Trumah”.  Trumah car­ries the require­ment that it be טהור –pure– and be given to the טהור kohen. Whereas in the land of Israel , due to “impu­rity to the dead”, both the chal­lah that was touched by it’s kneader (or machin­ery) and the kohen are in an tamei (impure) state.

Did you know?  chal­lah is also called trumah?

The kohen is for­bid­den from con­sum­ing trumah when in a tamei state as the posuk says וינזרו מקדשי בני ישראל (vayikra 22) “and they –the sons of Ahron– should abstain from the holy trumah of the sons of Israel” while in a state of tumah (impu­rity).

How­ever, not all opin­ions agree that the chal­lah be burnt in the land of Israel.  The Ram­bam writes that the mitz­vah nowa­days is merely midirab­banan (of rab­binic decree) and thus the chal­lah is per­mit­ted to be eaten in the land of Israel (Ram­bam הלכות איסורי ביאה פרק כ).  Too, the Sha­lah, in con­text of his dis­cus­sion of the laws of trumah in the land of Israel, may have been the first to say that nowa­days, in the state of impu­rity, it may be wiser to give the trumah (chal­lah) por­tion to the kohen rather than burn it, as even in mod­ern times he can derive ben­e­fit from it other than actu­ally eat­ing it (She­lah, שער האותיות,קדושת האכילה).

Out­side of Israel

But what about Chutz L’Aretz? well, for the first thing some ris­honim explain that chal­lah is not required מן התורה to be given to the kohen out­side the land of Israel, as the posuk sais בְּבֹאֲכֶם אֶל הָאָרֶץ “when you come to the land” mean­ing the mitz­vah of chal­lah applies when בני ישראל are in the land of Israel and not out­side of it. But, as Rabbi Elazar of Worms explained (based on Sifri Zutta), since the posuk also uses the term לדורותיכם “for you gen­er­a­tions” which has an eter­nal impli­ca­tion –regard­less of where בני ישראל are, חז“ל decreed that chal­lah be sep­a­rated out­side the land of Israel –and this require­ment was enacted כעין מדאורייתא “sim­i­lar to a torah mitz­vah”.

Another angle show­ing that the mitz­vah of chal­lah is applic­a­ble out­side the land of Israel is the Medrash HaGadol (דברים 26:1) explain­ing that the expres­sion “when you come to the land” (בבאכם אל הארץ) is used by the torah by both the mitz­vah of tfillin and pet­ter chamor.  Whereas they are both required out­side the land of Israel.  Thus show­ing that the deter­min­ing fac­tor that makes a mitz­vah applic­a­ble out­side the land of Israel is not nec­es­sar­ily whether it is lim­ited by the words בבאכם אל הארץ, but by it being a mitz­vah of “Cho­vat HaGuf” –an oblig­a­tion of the ישראל per­son (as opposed to “Cho­vat karka” –an oblig­a­tion of the land/earth).

The Mishna, Gmara and Ris­honim

Rab­ban Gam­liel is quoted in the mishna as list­ing three stages of chal­lah giv­ing (mishna chal­lah 4:7(8)), for the pur­pose of this arti­cle, the most rel­e­vant being what is to be done out­side the land of Israel.

with most mishna com­men­ta­tors defin­ing the third stage as being final and refer­ring to every­where out­side the land of Israel.  In fact, in this third stage two challa’s are sep­a­rated; the first is burnt while the sec­ond is given to the kohen for con­sump­tion, the first has no min­i­mal require­ment (and thus is quite small) while the sec­ond has a min­i­mal require­ment.  The logic here being that since both challah’s are midirab­banan (required by chazal), it is bet­ter to increase the quan­tity of the one eaten over that of the one burnt.

Why should we increase the one eaten over the one burnt?  A plau­si­ble rea­son is the con­cern of בל תשחית –the rab­binic pro­hi­bi­tion of destroy­ing an item wor­thy of deriv­ing ben­e­fit from.

As a fringe opin­ion but nonethe­less an amaz­ing dis­play of leniency is the mishna comen­tary of Rabbi Shlomo Sir­illo.  Rabbi Shlomo intro­duces a “fourth stage” that essen­tially means all of chutz l’aretz.  It is in this fourth stage where the first chal­lah isn’t to be burnt but given to a kohen minor (or an adult kohen who has immersed in the mik­vah even if he is a tvul yom) whereas if a kohen minor isn’t avail­able the first chal­lah is burnt and a sec­ond chal­lah is taken and given to an adult kohen to eat even if the kohen is tam­mei (Pirush מלאכת שלמה to mishna chal­lah 8:4).

A note­wor­thy rea­son why one chal­lah is to be con­sumed by the kohen is that eye­wit­nesses shouldn’t exclaim “we’ve seen טרומה טהורה –pure trumah– being burnt” as would be the case if we’d have the chal­lah burnt with­out one being con­sumed by the kohen  (pirush hamishna of ram­bam, Rabbi Yitz­chok ben Malki-Tzedek).


What is wrong with burn­ing pure trumah any­way?

Another con­cern known and noted by the tal­mud is דלא תשתכח תורת חלה  that “the concept/“torah” of chal­lah not be for­got­ten” by בני ישראל out­side the land of Israel.  Now, based on what the pri­mary focus of chal­lah is (i.e. the “sep­a­rat­ing” or the “giv­ing”) it can be inferred just what the con­cern was; essen­tially, what was chazal con­cerned with that may be for­got­ten? was it the the sep­a­rat­ing or the giving/eating to/by the kohen?

In tal­mu­dic lit­er­a­ture, it seems that the actual con­sump­tion of the chal­lah bread by a kohen was impor­tant as seen from the require­ment of sep­a­rat­ing a “sec­ond chal­lah” for actual con­sump­tion by the kohen;

אמר רבינא הילכך נדה קוצה חלה ואוכל לה כהן קטן ואי ליכא כהן קטן..שדיא בתנורא והדר מפרשא חלה אחריתי כי היכי דלא תשתכח תורת חלה ואוכל לה כהן (ואפילו) גדול  -בכורות דף כז

But what about the gmara’s men­tion of a minor kohen as the first choice as the chal­lah con­sumer? why is a minor given prece­dence for this priv­i­lege of con­sum­ing chal­lah?  The שפת אמת com­men­tary to הלכות גדולות (cit­ing שאילתות דרב אחאי גאון and rashi to בכורות דף כז) explains that the kohen minor is cho­sen only due to aware­ness of all par­ties involved that the adult kohen is impure (בטומאה יוצאה עליו מגופו) , whereas oth­er­wise the adult kohen would have the priv­i­lege of the chal­lah con­sump­tion

It is here where the con­cern is spelled out in terms of the kohen eat­ing the chal­lah; with the phrase “in order that תורת חלה not be for­got­ten” brought by the gmara in con­text with the eat­ing of the chal­lah (and not its sep­a­rat­ing)  –thus the require­ment of a “sec­ond chal­lah” to be sep­a­rated and given to the kohen for con­sump­tion whereas if the kohen will not eat the chal­lah out­side of Israel the “torah of chal­lah” may be for­got­ten1)2.

Another impor­tant theme of giv­ing chal­lah to the kohen for con­sump­tion is that the kohen should be given the oppor­tu­nity and means to engage in torah study and instruc­tion.  This theme is cited by the ris­honim (to chu­mash) as the gen­eral rea­son for all מתנות כהונה, and chal­lah is to be given prefer­ably to the kohen who engages in תורת השם as opposed to the kohen who does not (Tos­foth to Bchoroth 27b ד“ה וכי הזאה. Tos­foth to chullin 104b ד“ה וניתנת).  Here, with the kohen being given the chal­lah and his require­ment to make a bless­ing אשר קדשנו בקדושתו של אהרן וציוונו על אכילת תרומה is a gen­tly reminder of the sanc­tity of his bread and his des­ig­na­tion as an איש קדוש among the holy nation of Israel.

To sum­ma­rize the rea­sons why chal­lah should be eaten by the kohen out­side the land of Israel;

  1. The “torah” of chal­lah not be for­got­ten
  2. Eye­wit­nesses shouldn’t err by say­ing “pure trumah is actu­ally burnt” (accord­ing to the Ram­bam, this rea­son applies to sec­ond stage chal­lah)
  3. The kohen should have an incen­tive to actively engage in torah study and instruc­tion


As under­stood by the Rambam’s wit­ness to chal­lah being eaten by kohanim out­side the land of Israel com­plete with say­ing the bless­ing על אכילת תרומה, kohanim would eat the chal­lah in his era (see Ram­bam 6;2 of הלכות תרומות and end of Ch. 6).  In fact the Ram­bam explains that the chal­lah –even in the land of Israel– is required only midirab­banan and thus con­sumed by the kohen muchzak nowa­days (Ram­bam הלכות איסורי ביאה פרק כ) .

Many Ris­honim go on to say that out­side the land of Israel –in “far away” places (also known as “third stage chal­lah”)- no chal­lah is burnt, but the “first chal­lah” is given to the kohen for con­sump­tion; below is a list­ing of their respec­tive places;

  • Tos­foth Bchoroth 27a ד“ה פסק
  • Tos­foth Chullin 104a ד“ה חלת
  • Sefer HaTrumah, Hil­chot Chal­lah par. 80 (if one desires he may give the first chal­lah to the kohen for con­sump­tion)
  • הרמבן הל’ בכורות פ“ד,וכן הסכים תשב“ץ פסקי חלה פ“א –ובתשובותיו ח“ב סי” רצא
  • ואפשר ג“כ האור זרוע ח“א סי’ רנא ורא“ש הל’ חלה סי’ יד לחולין פ“ח סי’ ד וסמ“ג עשין קמא ופרישה שם בשם רש“ל שכן דעת הטור: יוצא מדבריהם דבחלת מקומות הרחוקים מא“י מפרישים רק א’ ונאכלת לכהן טהור),וכשהכהן טמא שורף הראשון ומאכילו חלה שניה.-ראב“ן סי’ נד דצוטט בראבי“ה ח“א סי’ קסז

Rabbein Asher favors the min­hag to burn the first chal­lah in “third stage” areas but to give the sec­ond chal­lah to the kohen for con­sump­tion (kitur piskei ha’rosh to chullin ch. 8, par. 4)

In stark dif­fer­ence,  Rabbi Shimshon of Sens (to mishna, chal­lah 4–7(8)) val­i­dates the cus­tom of France and Ashke­naz to not give chal­lah for con­sump­tion to the kohen.  indi­cat­ing that since chal­lah isn’t eaten in the land of Israel but burnt as per הלכות גדולות.  Rabbi Shimshon rea­sons that this is due to טומאת מת –impu­rity of the dead– thus, the kohen out­side the land of Israel is not given chal­lah to eat.  Tos­foth, like­wise quot­ing the same הלכות גדולות, dif­fers by say­ing that in the land of Israel the first chal­lah is burnt due to טומאת המת but a sec­ond chal­lah should be given the kohen for con­sump­tion so the torah of chal­lah won’t be for­got­ten.  As men­tioned above, the Rambam’s take (cited in הלכות איסורי ביאה פרק כ) is like­wise that chal­lah is indeed eaten by the kohen in the land of Israel.

More arti­cles about the mitz­vah of chal­lah:

[[1]]התורה והמצוה ch. 122[[1]]

References   [ + ]

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