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Does one have to separate “Challah” from the dough used for doughnuts (sufganiyot)?

Miriam Fenster, Rebecca Linzer

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Written by the Morot L’Halakha
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Separating Challah from dough is a Biblical commandment: “And when you eat from the bread of the Land, you shall set aside a gift for the Lord.” (Bamidbar 15:19) One takes Challah from a dough which is made of one of the five species of grains and from a quantity of flour over 1.666kg (some have the custom to make the blessing from a quantity of 1.550kg, and some make a blessing only from 2.456kg).

In Massechet Challah (1:4) the Mishna speaks about types of food which are exempt from the mitzvah of Challah “Sponge breads (sufganin), and honey breads, … are all exempt from Challah.” The Gemara in Massechet Pesachim (37b) understands that the reason for the exemption is the manner in which the dough is cooked.

The Amoraim (Rabbis of the Gemara) disputed the ruling about separating challah from a dough that is cooked in a pan. According to everyone, a dough which is baked in the oven is called ‘bread’ and requires challah to be separated. In the Talmud Yerushalmi (Challah 1:4) a differentiation is made between a dough which is baked in the oven and requires challah to be separated, and a dough which is cooked in a pan or pot which is exempt. Since Sufganiyot are deep fried, they would thus be considered as being cooked in a pan or pot.  Therefore, it would appear that Sufganiyot are exempt from the challah obligation.

All agree that when dough meets the following two requirements there is an obligation to separate challah: 1. A thick dough which is usually kneaded/ similar to bread dough 2. Baked in an oven. There is a disagreement amongst the Baalei HaTosafot whether the obligation to take Challah applies in a situation where only one of the requirements is met. According to Rabbeinu Tam (Tosafot Pesachim 37b), in light of the Mishna in Challah 1:5, the kneading itself already obligates the separation of Challah, and only a thin dough (that one cannot knead, such as pancake batter) that is fried would be exempt from this mitzvah. That is, the obligation is not dependent upon the method of cooking the dough. The act iself of kneading thick dough similar to bread dough is the determining factor. “And Rabbeinu Tam says that this obligation of Challah is from the time of kneading…even though it is fried in oil there is no reason there is no reason to differentiate between water and oil.”

However, according to Rabbeinu Shimshon in his commentary on that same Mishna, it is the dough’s intended use and not the act of kneading which is the determining factor. Therefore, a thick dough, which one intends to fry, is exempt from separating challah. A thin dough, such as a batter, that one intends to bake as a bread would require challah to be separated. “…for if it is fried in oil it is no longer considered bread…” However, if even a small amount of the dough would be baked and the rest fried, Rabbeinu Shimshon concurs that all of the dough would require separation of Challah. Since some of the dough was intended to be baked, all of the dough is considered as bread dough, even if the majority is prepared in another manner.

The Maharam MiRottenberg (brought in the Ro”sh on Pesachim 2:16) instructed his family to always bake a portion of the dough in the oven, thereby following both Rabbeinu Tam’s and Rabbeinu Shimshon’s rulings.

The Shulchan Aruch rules according to Rabbeinu Shimshon:  the intention is what obligates (Yo”d 329:3): “A dough that is a thin batter, and which was mixed with the intention of cooking or frying or preparing sufganin or to dry in the sun, and thus was done, is exempt.” The Sha”ch (in situ, 4) however, ruled that it is best to  follow both opinions and suggested separating challah without a bracha for dough which was prepared with the intention of frying, or following the instructions of the Maharam MiRottenberg to bake a small portion of the dough.

Practical Halakha: One takes challah without reciting a brakha from dough for fried sufganiyot (doughnuts) that fulfills the requirements for separating challah. If one bakes some of the doughnuts from that same dough, one is required to separate challah from the dough with a brakha.

Miriam Fenster

Miriam Fenster

learned Literature, Linguistics and Jewish Philosophy at Hebrew University. She is a graduate of the Ayanot Matmidot program at Matan HaSharon. She has been teaching Torah courses in Hadar Ganim and Kfar Ganim in Petach Tikva for twenty years. She was the pedagogical coordinator and a teacher in the Amishav and Kfar programs of Bnei Akiva Olami. She teaches in the Naale Beit Midrash in Ulpanat Amana.

Rebecca Linzer

Rebecca Linzer

has a B.Sc. in Biology from Barnard College and an M.Sc in Genetics from Rutgers University. She studied at Orot College in Israel and Drisha in New York. She is a graduate of the Morot L’Halakha program at Matan HaSharon. She teaches Talmud and Development of Halakha at Matan HaSharon and in Oranit. She is the International Coordinator for the Matan Mother-Daughter Bat Mitzvah Program and the administrator of the Beit Midrash Programs at Matan HaSharon. She has a website that helps parents add Jewish learning to the family table