The cHamotz of Shavu’ot Recipe

“From wherever you live, bring two loaves made of two-tenths of an ephah of the finest flour, baked with yeast, as a wave offering of firstfruits to Yahweh.”

Leviticus 23:17

Converting Biblical to Modern Measurements

The Hebrew word “ephah” (איפה) means a particular measure for grain, and “measure” in general. The Bible’s ephah in modern terms is about 23 liters or 6.1 U.S. gal, being ten times larger than the omer.

The Book of Exodus records that an omer was equal to one tenth of an “ephah”. In dry weight, various rabbinical sources rule that the omer weighed 3.44–3.90 lb, being the quantity of flour required to separate therefrom the dough offering. It corresponds to the bath (Ezekiel 45:11) in liquid measure and was the standard for measuring grain and similar articles since it is classed with balances and weights (Leviticus 19:36 ; Amos 8:5) in the injunctions regarding just dealing in trade. In Zechariah 5:6–10 it is used for the utensil itself.

So let’s calculate what this all means:

2/10 ephah – biblical = 2 omer – biblical
2 omer – biblical = 18 3/5 cup dry us
2/10 ephah – biblical = 18 3/5 cup dry us
18 3/5 dry cups (US) = 1 dry gallon (US)

Now I can already hear you screaming,

“A Gallon of Flour per Loaf?!”

It is impossible to overestimate the importance of bread as the staple food of the ancient world, and hence the enormity of the disaster when the grain crop was poor.

For many centuries bread was commonly sold in the form of a ‘gallon loaf.’ This was not, as is often quoted, a quantity of bread made with a gallon of water. In interpreting historical anecdotes and recipes, it is important to remember that weights and measures have changed over time. It is also interesting that a measure for one commodity might actually be a different amount (weight or volume) than for another.

A text “Dictionaire Œconomiquedry …” from 1725 explains the concept of a ‘gallon’ at that time:

“DRY MEASURE; the Measuring of dry Commodities, of which scarce no Body should be ignorant; as Corn or Grain; for whch there is first the Gallon, which is bigger than the Wine-Gallon, and less than the Ale or Beer-Gallon, containing Two hundred seventy-two and a quarter Cubick Inches, and None Pound thirteen Ounces, twelve Drams and a half, of Averdupois Weight. Two of those Gallons make a Peck, four Pecks a Bushel, four Bushels a Comb or Curnock, two Curnocks make a Quarter, Seam, or Raff, and ten Quarters a Last, which contains Five thousand one hundred and twenty pints, and so many Pounds Troy Weight; so that a Garrison of Five thousand Men, allowing each but a Pound of Bread a Day; will consume near a Last, or eighty Bushels every Day; and Two hundred and fifty Men in a Ship of War, will drink a Tun of Beer in two Days, allowing each Man about a Pottle per Diem.”

So, a gallon(or half-peck) loaf was made with a gallon of flour or grain, not a gallon of water. It was considered that a gallon of bread (a little over a pound a day) was the basic ration for one adult for one week, and it was on this basis that labourer’s wages and parish poor relief were based.

So let’s calculate what this all means:
1/2 peck dry = 1 dry gallon (US)
1/2 peck dry = 2 omer – biblical
1/2 peck dry = 2/10 ephah – biblical

Therefore:
1 dry gallon (US) or 18 3/5 dry cups (US) = 2/10 ephah – biblical

So, with that conversion out of the way we continue to the recipe.

Shavu’ot Bread Recipe

Ingredients

If making one loaf:

  • 18 3/5 cups (or 4 quarts) Wheat Flour
  • 5 tablespoons Yeast
  • 1 cup Olive Oil
  • 6 cups Warm Water

If making both loaves:

  • 37 1/4 cups (or 8 quarts or 2 gallons) Wheat Flour
  • 10 tablespoons (or 3/5 cup) Yeast
  • 2 cups Olive Oil
  • 12 cups (or 3 quarts) Warm Water

Instructions

  • Mix together yeast and water. Let sit for five to 10 minutes until frothy. Add oil, flour (in increments) to the yeast mixture. Knead by hand.
  • Transfer dough to a large bowl and cover with a towel. The bowl should be big enough to hold the dough until it is finished rising. If possible, leave somewhere warm to rise. Allow to rise for one hour.

For those who believe it is to be braided:

  • Divide dough to braid, each loaf into 3 braids – say blessing:

Hebrew:
ברוך אתה יְיָ אלהינו מלך העולם אשר קדשנו במצוותיו וציונו להפריש חלה מין העיסָה

Transliteration:
BA-RUCH A-TAH A-DO-NOI ELO-HAI-NU ME-LECH HA-O-LAM A-SHER KID-SHA-NU B’MITZ-VO-TAV V’TZI-VA-NU L’HAF-RISH CHAL-LAH

Translation:
Blessed are You, L-rd our G‑d, King of the Universe, who has sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us to separate challah.

If one wishes to say the longer prayer, they add:

Hebrew:
יְהִי רָצוֹן מִלְּפָנֶיךָ יְיָ אֱלֹהֵינוּ וֵאלֹהֵי אֲבוֹתֵינוּ שֶׁהַמִּצְוָה שֶׁל הַפְרָשַׁת חַלָּה תֵּחָשֵׁב כְּאִלּוּ קִיַּמְתִּיהָ בְּכָל פְּרָטֶיהָ וְדִקְדוּקֶיהָ, וְתֵחָשֵׁב הֲרָמַת הַחַלָּה שֶׁאֲנִי מְרִימָה, כְּמוֹ הַקָּרְבָּן שֶׁהֻקְרַב עַל הַמִּזְבֵּחַ, שֶׁנִּתְקַבֵּל בְּרָצוֹן. וּכְמוֹ שֶׁלְּפָנִים הָיְתָה הַחַלָּה נְתוּנָה לַכֹּהֵן וְהָיְתָה זוֹ לְכַפָּרַת עֲוֹנוֹת, כָּךְ תִּהְיֶה לְכַפָּרָה לַעֲוֹנוֹתַי, וְאָז אֶהְיֶה כְּאִלּוּ נוֹלַדְתִּי מֵחָדָשׁ, נְקִיָּה מֵחֵטְא וְעָוֹן. וְאוּכַל לְקַיֵּם מִצְוַת שַׁבַּת קֹדֶשׁ וְהַיָּמִים הַטּוֹבִים עִם בַּעֲלִי (וִילָדֵינוּ, לִהְיוֹת נִזּוֹנִים מִקְּדֻשַּׁת הַיָּמִים הָאֵלֶּה. וּמֵהַשְׁפָּעָתָהּ שֶׁל מִצְוַת חַלָּה, יִהְיוּ יְלָדֵינוּ נִזּוֹנִים תָּמִיד מִיָּדָיו שֶׁל הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא, בְּרֹב רַחֲמָיו וַחֲסָדָיו, וּבְרֹב אַהֲבָה, וְשֶׁתִּתְקַבֵּל מִצְוַת חַלָּה כְּאִלּוּ נָתַתִּי מַעֲשֵׂר. וּכְשֵׁם שֶׁהִנְנִי מְקַיֶּמֶת מִצְוַת חַלָּה בְּכָל לֵב, כָּךְ יִתְעוֹרְרוּ רַחֲמָיו שֶׁל הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא לְשָׁמְרֵנִי מִצַּעַר וּמִמַּכְאוֹבִים כָּל הַיָּמִים, אָמֵן:

Translation:
“May it be Your Will, Eternal, our G-d, that the commandment of separating challah
be considered as if I had performed it with all its details and ramifications. May my elevation of the challah be comparable to the sacrifice that was offered on the altar, which was acceptable and pleasing. Just as giving the challah to the Kohein in former times served to atone for sins, so may it atone for mine, and make me like a person reborn without sins. May it enabled me to observe the holy Sabbath (or Festival of…) with my husband (and our children) and to become imbued with its holiness. May the spiritual influence of the mitzvah of challah enable our children to be constantly sustained by the hands of the Holy One, blessed is He, with His abundant mercy, loving-kindness, and love. Consider the mitzvah of challah as if I have given the tithe. And just as I am fulfilling this mitzvah with all my heart, so may Your compassion be aroused to keep me from sorrow and pain, always. Amen.”

  • Cover and leave to rise for an additional 30 minutes.
  • Braid so that each loaf will have 6 bulges or tribes, so that with 2 loaves there are 12 tribes.
  • Cover and leave to rise another 30 minutes.
  • Preheat your oven to 350°F while your challahs are completing their second rise.
  • Bake for 45 minutes.
  • Remove from oven and let cool.

For those who believe it is not to be braided:

  • Cover and leave to rise another 2 hour instead of 1 hour.
  • Form it into the shape of the alter, a rectangle with horns on the four corners.
  • Preheat your oven to 350°F while your challahs are completing their rise.
  • Bake for 45 minutes.
  • Remove from oven and let cool.
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