Why Are Challah Loaves Round On Rosh Hashanah?

Whether you celebrate Rosh Hashanah or not, chances are you've eaten a delicious slice of challah bread on its own, as French toast or in a strata or bread pudding. The versatile and satisfying enriched bread is commonly made into a braided loaf. However, when the Jewish holiday rolls around between September 6 and 8, challah is fashioned into rounds instead.

One woman who bakes challah weekly and even teaches a class on it, Mimi Wilhelm, told NPR one reason why the challah loaves are round for the holiday. "The reason that we do the round challah, versus the braids, for Rosh Hashanah, is because the year is round, it represents that idea," she explained. "This looks like a crown, for crowning God as king on Rosh Hashanah." But that is far from the only reason why challah loaves are made into rounds to mark the occasion. It is actually symbolic in several ways.

This is what the round loaf symbolizes

A common theme behind the round loaves of challah is that a circle represents infinity. In this way, round challah can symbolize God without beginning or end in one continuous form that does not change (via Chabad). Similarly, round loaves are meant to bring a good life and blessings without end in the year ahead. Rosh Hashanah starts the beginning of the period in which followers' fate is spun for the following year. A round challah denotes the wish for all things good in the time ahead. Another theme of Rosh Hashanah is the coronation of God. So, round challah also represents a crown.

Other symbols that round loaves of challah represents include the wheel of fortune, as well as the Jewish community around the world. The wheel of fortune is meant to remind you that wealth and fortune are in God's hands and not your own. Just as the wheel turns upward, it can also turn downward. But everything that is meant to be yours will be by God's hand. A raisin-studded round challah is meant to represent the Jewish community strung together across the world. It also represents the hope and prayer that God will bless his people. So, the next time you see a round challah, just remember all of the symbolic meaning it holds and the hope it represents for the Jewish community.