Friday Night Rituals: Challah Rituals

Created by: OneTable Team

Friday Night Rituals: Challah Rituals

Nourish yourself and bless a special bread for Shabbat in a way that feels meaningful to you.

Remove the challah cover and uncover new (and old) rituals of sharing ha’motzi. There are many ways to enjoy Shabbat rituals + Friday night dinners, so we asked five OneTable hosts to share their unique practices, challenges, and inspiration. Explore how they bless the bread, share with their guests, and adapt the ritual to meet their needs.

Blessing Bread with Jacob
See how OneTable host Jacob does a ritual hand washing and blesses the bread.
Blessing Bread with Ruby
See how OneTable host Ruby expresses gratitude and welcomes their guests with a blessing over the bread.
Blessing Bread with Mel
See how OneTable host Mel uses the blessing for bread to connect guests.
Blessing Bread with Dani
See how OneTable host Dani uses honey on her challah for an extra sweet ritual.
Blessing Bread with Healy
See how OneTable host Healy blesses the bread before Shabbat dinner.
Blessing the Bread at Your Next Shabbat Dinner

Before we eat, we pause to recognize and elevate the miracle of nourishment, the bread itself, and its source. Here are some elements you might consider.

  • What: Two whole loaves of bread are traditionally used, one is good too. Braided challah, dinner rolls, injera, or pita all work.
  • When: After blessing the wine, before starting the meal.
  • Who: All genders are welcome to bless the bread.
  • How: Two whole loaves are traditionally covered, then revealed when blessed. Some people slice, others tear the bread. Then dip or sprinkle with salt to make the first bite extra tasty.

On many tables, you will find two loaves of challah rather than one. On Shabbat, we revel in possibility and abundance. It symbolizes lechem mishna, the double portion of manna that sustains us through Shabbat.

After uncovering the challah, one person can hold the bread or raise it in the air. If there are two challah loaves, some hold them next to each other (or on top of each other) so that they touch. Others have a tradition of inviting everyone who is present to touch the challah or — depending on the size of the group, place their hand on someone else who is touching the challah — as a reminder of all the many hands that go into the process of making bread.

Jewish tradition teaches that once we recite a blessing, we should do the action we’re blessing as quickly as possible. In that vein, the person who recites motzi typically takes the first bite of challah, then slices or rips into the challah to share with the table.

There are several different reasons why challah is braided. The three strands of the braid can symbolize three qualities that Shabbat is associated with, such as beauty, honor, and strength; truth, peace, and justice; or past, present, and future; or the divine instructions to remember, observe, and guard Shabbat. The idea of weaving together different strands of a braid is also symbolic.

Explore our Shabbat guides to make your Shabbat dinners even more magical.