In Jewish tradition, Challah is loaded with symbolism. It is a staple not only for Shabbat but during Jewish feasts/holidays. It recounts the Biblical story of how ADONAI provided manna for the Israelites. It is customary to have two loaves of bread on the Shabbat table, which is symbolic of the double portion of manna that the LORD provided for them on a Friday. In the days of the Temple, the people were biblically commanded to separate a portion from their dough and bring it to the priests every Shabbat. In addition it also represents the 12 ceremonial loaves that were kept in the Temple representing the 12 Tribes of Israel.
Challah is not merely about baking bread, it is a spiritual experience. It reminds me of the following:
1)HaShem is the Great Provider and He is our Source. As He provided for Israel in the wilderness, He continues to provide for His people today. It is He who causes the earth to produce for us and grants us the strength to create
2) God is a Deliverer. As He brought Israel out of the bondage of slavery, He has made a way of escape for us out of the bondage of sin and death.
3) In Scripture bread is symbolic of the Torah. The Word of God is food for the soul. Callah reminds me that If we feast upon HaShem's word it nourishes and strengthens our soul for the journey of life. In Deuteronomy 8:3 Moses, in speaking to the Israelites said:
"So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord".
4) It reminds me that eternal life awaits the believer. As God gave Israel manna to physically sustain them in the wilderness, He has given us Yeshua, the Bread of Life. However unlike the manna in wilderness, those who eat from the Bread of Life will have eternal life. In John 6:32, 35 we read of a discourse between Yeshua and the people:
"Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat. Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world....Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty."
Finally, while the challah can have varying numbers of braids, the standard braid is three. In Ecclesiastes 4:12 we read:
"Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken."
This is a reminder of our need for relationship/fellowship, first with God and then with others. It is a reminder that we have been called to walk out our faith in community.