Dear Rabanit Cohen,
I recently started to bake challot and was wondering why we have to braid them?
Thank you for writing with such a good question. Most challot are braided with either three or six strands of dough. I recently heard an interesting explanation for the six-braided loaves. Shabat represents the idea of unity. The six days of the week are the paradigm of diversity. They are like the six directions in our three-dimensional world — north, south, west, east, up and down. During these days we are in a search of the outward. We are full of action and initiative, trying to master our environment.
Shabat however, represents the inner point. Shabat points inward and is full of the unity and the peace that comes with unity. This is why we greet one another with the words, “Shabat Shalom.” Shabat also represents the innerness of absorbing the berachot from the six workdays and directing them to our homes and our lives.
Perhaps the braiding of the challah, which is eaten at the Shabat table, also represents the idea of unity: how we tie everything together, bringing all the diversity in our lives together for a peaceful harmony and unity that only the Shabat can achieve.
The two challot together are therefore symbolic of the twelve breads which were placed every Shabat on the table in the Bet Hamikdash. This is just one simple reason. I will however address the subject of challah in a future newsletter B’ezrat Hashem.