Danger of Eating Shlissel Challah?


shlissel-challahAs is well known, there is a minhag to make shlissel challah for the Shabbos after Pesach. Shlissel challahs are best known as a segulah for parnassah, although there are other several reasons for baking a challah with a key in it. However, some have raised health concerns regarding this minhag. Keys have been found to leave behind unsafe amounts of lead, leading some to suggest that the practice of placing keys in challahs in making shlissel challah may present a danger.

Brass is a soft metal, so lead is added to give keys more strength. Some keys have a silver-colored nickel coating over top the brass, but this wears away. Sucking on car keys is dangerous. Even handling car keys can leave lead on one’s hands. Not all keys are brass; some are aluminum and are lighter weight.

Never give a child real car keys or brass items to play with. Adults should wash hands after handling keys or other brass items, especially if pregnant.

For more info, see here.

In light of the above, some have wondered what harm one may be doing to one’s family by baking a shlissel challah and letting them eat it.

The following report has appeared in The San Diego Union Tribune:

Keys found to leave behind unsafe amounts of lead!

Attorney general files lawsuit over lead content in brass keys

By Caitlin Rother

So you thought you were safe after getting rid of your lead pipes and lead paint.

According to the latest public health warning, now you have to watch yourself and your children around keys.

The warning, which came in state Attorney General Bill Lockyer’s lawsuit this week against 13 manufacturers of brass keys, has some parents in San Diego concerned and confused.

Lockyer’s office found that when the keys are used as intended – held in the hands for 15 seconds while unlocking something – lead in the keys is deposited on the fingers at amounts well above the safe level. Proposition 65, the state measure adopted in 1986 that requires public notice about toxic materials, limits exposure to 0.5 microgram a day.

Lauri Bollinger, a health-conscious parent in El Cajon, said that after the state’s warning she realized she should not have let her toddler chew on her key ring.

But Bollinger does not know what to do with all of her brass keys, each of which contains about 2 percent lead. Similarly, retailers and key manufacturers were left scratching their heads about what to do with this common item that has been around for years with no apparent ill effect on people.

Toxicologists say children under 6 are more vulnerable than adults to lead poisoning, which can cause a decrease in intelligence, clumsiness, a loss of appetite and sleep, and abdominal cramps. And every parent knows that children like to put things in their mouths.

Lead poisoning can be treated with medication.

After learning about the lawsuit, Bollinger, 35, grew more worried when her keys registered in the dangerous level on her home lead tester.

Lockyer said some keys leave lead on hands at a level that is up to 80 times above the 0.5 microgram per-day limit, while the average level detected on hands was about 19 times above the “no significant risk level.”

“My house keys and my car keys that I use every day tested positive,” Bollinger said. “I’d like to figure out how to get nonleaded keys.”

Master Lock Co., one of the manufacturers named in the lawsuit Lockyer filed Tuesday, does not know what it is supposed to do any more than Bollinger does.

“We’re waiting for the other shoe to drop,” said Master Lock Spokesman Todd Robert Murphy. “I mean, what’s (Lockyer) want?”

The lawsuit asks the court for injunctions to prevent the manufacturers from exposing California residents to lead in keys “without first providing clear and reasonable warnings,” and to pay the costs of bringing the suit.

Murphy said the lawsuit came as a total surprise because Master Lock never has received a complaint from any parent whose child got sick after using keys as a teething ring.

“How much damage is actually being done?” He said. “Who is actually being hurt by these products?”

Some car keys are made of stainless steel and contain only trace amounts of lead. But most keys on the market are made of brass because they are more durable and are less likely to break off in a lock. The lead makes the brass easier to cut.

Small retailers such as San Diego Hardware and big chains such as The Home Depot say they use brass key-cutting equipment and make copies using only brass keys. Company representatives at both stores said their key cutters do not wear gloves because it would be too difficult to do the work.

Like Murphy, Bill Haynsworth, an owner of San Diego Hardware, voiced some skepticism about the potential hazards of lead in keys.

“I kind of felt as though there’s possible carcinogens in everything you touch in this world,” Haynsworth said. “Maybe it’s a really bad thing, but at this point, I tend to shrug it off as kind of premature to say the keys have a dangerous amount of lead in them until they do studies that back that up.”

What should people do in the meantime?

“Don’t ask me,” Haynsworth said. “I have no idea.”

State health officials suggested that consumers do what Bollinger did – check lead levels with home detections kits, which can be purchased at many home improvement and hardware stores. People also can contact manufacturers for more specific information on key composition.

Poison control officials and lead experts said this was the first time they had heard about the potential hazards of lead in keys. Sandra Michioku, a Lockyer spokeswoman, said the intent of the lawsuit is to make consumers aware that keys can be a source of lead exposure.

Health officials also suggest that, like Bollinger, concerned parents contact their doctors and ask for a blood lead test.

They recommend that people thoroughly wash their hands after handling keys, particularly before preparing food, eating, smoking, applying makeup or engaging in activities that bring the hands near the face or mouth. They warn parents not to let small children put keys in their mouths and to tell older children to wash their hands after playing with keys.

Consumers can reduce contact with the lead in keys by placing plastic or rubber covers over the heads.

{Noam Amdurski-Matzav.com Newscenter}


  1. Dear Dovid,
    Your point is as sharp and as nasal clearing as the chrein I ate at the Seder. You are 100% correct: crossing the street and eating from the shlissel challah are one and the same.

  2. #3 I think YOU should do as follows. Wrap your brain in aluminum foil put it in the challah and bake it, and while its baking cross the street. Why cant you add or say something nice to this discussion. There always has to be some idiotic remark by some JERK popping into every piece of news.

  3. I make all kinds of key challos to make sure I cover all the minhagim. I make a challa shaped like a key, a challa with a dough key on top, and a challo baked with a real key, but, I always wrap the key in parchment paper before inserting it into the challo,not because I knew about the lead, but, because I don’t want to contaminate my challo or end up with a dirty key. I’d rather use parchment paper than aluminum foil because foil has it’s own problems healthwise.

  4. does anyone know the real source for this minhag ? all it says in taamei haminhagim “Minakrim” this means to poke or make holes where does it say to actually bake the challah with the keys still inside ?

  5. One has to use their front door key / keys in order for the Segula to work 100% , take it from some one who has experience with this experiment.

    BTW dont get carried away, I guarantee you that if one learns a Daf of Gemorah with all the Meforshim it will work too

  6. 1- first of all, the minhag of putting in a “key” did not mean a metal lock insert it meant in the yiddish language a “cow”

    2- i graade bought at shloimys judaica a special key manufactured by ner mitzva with no lead in it.

  7. i heard all heimishe bakeries are sending to gaza a large shipment of shlissel challa as humanitarian gesture

  8. I would suggest using a key that is used for a Bank safe-deposit-box , this would be a Great Segulah.

    For health concerns, wrap the key in aluminum foil and than wrap that in Parchment paper, this is guaranteed to hold back the lead and contamination from the key.


  9. silver foil is dangerous too and one shoul never use foil to wrap items. use tupperware, use glass, use parchement paper but stay away from foil.

  10. This is from “A Simple Jew” blog:

    There is a minhag to bake shlissel challah (shlissel means key in Yiddish) for the Shabbos after Pesach. Shlisel challos are best known as a segula for parnasa, though there are other reasons for it, as we will soon see. Some bake the challah with an actual key inside, some make the challah in the shape of a key and some put sesame seeds on top in the form of a key. There are those who make the challah flat to look like matzos. We will discuss this later on. The Ohev Yisroel says about shlisel challah that “the minhagim of our fathers are most definitely Torah”. There are many reasons given for this minhag of baking shlissel challah; we will go through some of them. (Some of the items written below can also be found in Taamei Minhagim, Nitei Gavriel, Sefer Hatoda’a and Minhag Yisroel Torah)

    First of all, the second mishna in Rosh Hashanah says on Pesach we are judged on the grains, parnasa. Rabbeinu Nissim asks if we are judged on Rosh Hashana then how are we judged on Pesach? He answers that on Pesach it is determined how much grain there will be in the coming year for the world, but on Rosh Hashana it is decided how much of that grain each individual receives. The Meiri, however, says that on Rosh Hashana it is decided if one will live or die, suffer or not and other such things, but on Pesach is when we are judged on the grains. Based on this there are customs in Sephardic communities to do things Motzei Pesach as a sign that we want Hashem to give us livelihood. In Aram Soba (Syria) and Turkey they put wheat kernels in all four corners of the house on Motzei Pesach as a sign of prosperity for the coming year. (Moed L’kol Chai -R’ Chaim Palagi, Beis Habichira). From a mishna we already see that there is a connection between Pesach and parnasa.

    Reasons for Shlissel Challa

    1).In Shir Hashirim (which we read on Pesach) it says ????????-??? ??????? ????????? – “Open for Me, My sister, My beloved”. Chazal say that Hashem asks us to open up for Him a small whole like the tip of a needle and He will open up a huge hole for us. Also, Klal Yisroel is called a bride and they are called the bechina (aspect) of bread. During Pesach all the upper gates and minds are open and after Pesach they close and we need to open them. Therefore, we put a key in the challah after Pesach to hint at us opening a small “hole”, through the mitzvah of Shabbos (and, if I might add, the mitzvah of challah) and now Hashem should open up all His good from his storehouses and the heavens like He gave the mon to our fathers in the month of Iyar, and this Shabbos we bless the month of Iyar.

    2) After Pesach is when the mon stopped falling and we brought the Omer. From then on we needed to eat from the produce of the ground; we needed parnasa, since untill now we had the mon. It is known that everything has a gate. Therefore just as we daven to Hashem to open up the gates of parnasa we have a minhag to put the form of a key on the challos to allude that Hashem should open up the gates of parnasa for us.

    3) During sefira we count 49 days till Shavuos, the 50th day, which is the shaarei bina. We go from gate to gate, and each gate has a key. That is why we make an image of a key on the challah.

    4) It says in Shir Hashirim 1:11 ??????? ????? ???????? ????? ??? ????????? ???????? – “We will make for you circlets of gold with spots of silver.” By the Mishkan it says ??? ???? ?????, putting zahav (gold) before kesef (silver). In Bereishis, by the creation of the world, the first day it says Yehi ohr which is chesed (which is represented by silver) and the second day represents gevurah, which in turn represents gold. The reason is that by the creation of the world it was pure chesed, as it says “the world was built on chesed” (Tehilim 89,3), therefore chesed, which is representative of kesef, precedes gevurah, which is representative of zahav. By the Mishkan, however, Hashem had to, so-to-speak, contract (tzimtzum) the Shechina (Divine Presence) to dwell in it, and tzimtzum is from the aspect of gevurah, therefore zahav precedes kesef by the Mishkan. However, the zahav written there has the nekudah (vowel sound) of a ?????? (it has a patach instead of the usual kometz), it says ????? ??????????? (Shemos 38,24), and that is the nekuda of chesed –the nekuda of chochma. And ??? (the vowel) also means opening like ??? ????- from there comes all the kindness. Putting it all together, this that we say in Shir Hashirim ??????? ????? ???????? ????? ??? ????????? ???????? means the Mishkan was made with zahav, the aspect of tzimtzum, but with the nekuda of kesef, meaning the (word “zahav”, instead of having the usual vowel, kometz, is written with the) nekuda of patach, which is chesed. And the Shabbos after Pesach is always in the second week of sefira which is gevurah, the aspect of zahav, except that it is menukad with kesef, nekudas patach. Through this we say that we will open up all the gates of blessing and since every gate has a ???? (key) we make the image of a key on the challah.

    5) The previous four reasons are all brought by the Ohev Yisroel in Shabbos Acher Pesach and Likutim Parshas Shmini. There is a fifth reason brought by the Ohev Yisroel, also based on the posuk ??????? ????? ???????? ????? ??? ????????? ????????, connecting the written and oral Torah to challah. (See Ohev Yisroel, Shabbos Acher Pesach)

    6) The matza we ate on Pesach is supposed to instill in us Yiras Hashem. And Yirah is compared to a key as we see from the following Gemara in Mesechta Shabbos 31a-b: “Rabbah bar Rav Huna said: Any person that has Torah but doesn’t have Yiras Shomayim is comparable to a treasurer who has the keys to the inner parts (of the treasure house) but the keys to the outer area was not handed to him. How can he get to the inner parts (if he can’t first get into the outer parts)?” Therefore we put a key in the challah the Shabbos after Pesach to show we want the Yirah obtained from the matzos to stay with us, because if one has Yirah then the Torah will stay attached to him. (Yismach Yisroel)

    7) The Rambam lists out at the beginning of Hilchos Chometz U’Matza that there are 8 mitzvos (3 positive & 5 negative) involved there. The key we put in the challah alludes to this Rambam: the letters of ???? (key) spell ??? ?? ?????. (??? is bread, representing the “chometz” and ?? is for matza- these allude to Hilchos Chometz U’Matza, and the?? is the 8 mitzvos involved) (Tzvi LaTzadik)

    8) The Shabbos after Pesach we make challos that look like matzos, as an allusion to the matzos that were eaten on Pesach Sheini. And we put a key in it to allude to the “gates” being open untill Pesach Sheini. (Imrei Pinchos)

    9) The minhag is to put keys in the challah and make them in the form of matzos. The reason is that in these seven weeks of sefira we are supposed to work on our Avodas Hashem until we reach the the level of the first night of Pesach. The way to do this is to put the “left into the right”, meaning mix the trait of ahava (right side) with yirah (left side). In this second week of sefira we have these two traits in our hands, since the first week of sefira is chesed- ahava, and the second week is gevura – yirah. That is why we make the challah look like matza. Matza is representative of the yetzer tov, the right, and chometz is representative of the yetzer horah, the left. Now, we have challos which are true chometz, in the form of matza; “the left is in the right”, chometz in matza. (Shearis L’Pinchos)

    10) There are many reasons given for the shlissel challah, and I say that the shlisel challos are the keys to parnasa. (Segulas HaBeShT V’Talmidov quoting Nachlas Yaakov)

    Different ways of making Shlissel Challah

    As mentioned above (reasons 8 and 9) there are those that make the challah round and flattish for this Shabbos, in the image of matza.

    Some make the challah in the shape of a key.

    Some attach a piece of dough in the shape of a key. Breslov Customs for Pesach (page 57) says this is the minhag of the family of Reb Elazar Kenig shlita and of Manistritch.

    Sefer Hatoda’ah mentions making the image of a key with sesame seeds on top of the challah. These first three customs can, perhaps, be seen from the wording of the Ohev Yisroel in one place where he says we put the image of a key on the challah.

    Some place an actual key in the challah. Perhaps this is done because of the wording in many places of indenting the challah with a key.

    Either way it is done the key or image of the key is usually on top. An interesting observation about this. The Gemara quoted by the Yismach Yisroel (reason 6), about the key, is at the top of daf 31b. At the bottom of the daf is the mishna mentioning the women’s mitzvah of challah. Here to the key is on top and the challah on the bottom.


    The Gemara in Taanis says there are three keys that Hashem controls directly, without the assistance of Malachim. They are rain, which the Gemara explains is parnasa, childbirth (or conception) and techias hameisim. If I may humbly add, when we are making the challah to have in mind the parnasa of others also, and also those who don’t have children and most importantly daven for techias hamaeisim.

    Either way one performs this minhag they are all correct and all have holy sources. When I started writing this I did not realize how much information there was on this minhag which is done only once a year. I learnt a valuable lesson. Every minhag and of course every mitzvah has many holy reasons behind it and it’s not done just because someone decided this is a nice thing to do, as some say. The more I looked into shlissel challah the more I found in seforim written by Rabbonim who were geonim in every part of Torah, nistar and nigleh, and tzadikim in every aspect, between “man and God” and “between man and man”. They were able to understand reasons for every little action we do as a way of serving Hashem. May we all be blessed with parnasa berevach together with all of Klal Yisroel.

    Note: It is said in the name of Reb Dovid of Tolna that one should make sure the dough separated as challah is burnt completely until no part of it is edible. In addition to being the ideal way to burn the challah, he says that if a davar tamei eats the unburnt challah it can cause ones children to go off the derech, chas v’shalom.

  11. This minhag was done by many people in my family although none of them knew excactly why they were doing it except that its brought down in taamei haminhagim along with hundreds of other “segulos”. But as nobody follows any of those other minhaghim why should you follow this one, since its cool, everyone else does it, its easy and figure why not, or maybe because your blinded by everyone else and are convinced that it will definitely help.

    so after realizing this i decided to ask rabbonim that really know. And so i heard from many Mekubalim and REAL Rabbonim, that there is no REAL mekor for it, and it is NOT a good thing to do.

    So hope all the REAL g-d fearing people take heed to the words of the wise and holy of our generation and put an end to this so called minhag and segulah.
    hatzlocha rabba and next time if following segulos follow the real ones. eg; learn gemara and youll find plenty of segulos and good health.

  12. adding on to numberr 27 the mekubalim happened to be REAL mekubalim and not the FAKERS taking your money and giving out fake segulos.

  13. I spoke to one of the most recognized and accepted by all Godol Hador. He told me his Rebbetzin makes Shlissel Challah’s every Erev Shabbos.

  14. Mr Avoda Zara-

    why is doing something that is another enforcement of Hashem running the show avoda zara? Is it avoda zara to have a note on your desk that says remember that Hashem provides all your needs? Ignorance. If you would read the seforim hakedoshim you will see this is what they speak of. things that the challah remins us of.

  15. can someone please give the corrct recipe for shlissel challa.
    i am giving my shvigger a shlissel challa for the last 23 years and its not working.


  16. I dont understand some of you. we are in the days of sefira and supposed to look for the good in yidden. If one sees a minhag that he thinks of as strange he should research it to see the reasons for it which there are many instead of thining that every minhag you are ignorant of is keneged haTorah. We are holy people and all our minhagim are rooted biharirei kodesh. If there is a way to look positive than do it. How many of us can see we really believe that HASHEM is in complete control of everything. Well if you don’t really (and only you and Hashem know) that is an level of worshipping elohim acheirim

  17. Shlissel, Chaya Rotel, Upsheren, no chrain on Rosh Hashana, Tisch on Shviee shel Pesach, etc… yeah yeah yeah all great stuff! All garauntee success. Wake up & smell the coffee! If you don’t do Teshuva, nothing will help.

  18. My mother z”l told me that my grandmother whom I’m named for used to make special challot–I would guess that a shlissel was part of her repetoire, in addition to a sulam yaakov, which Mom remembered. I think it’s nice to do special challot for the parshot. And tasty!

  19. the comments section on jewish websites are becoming like the subway…..anything goes, anyone can say almost anything, and whats being said gets insulted from one to the next. thanks to those who added their information about their minhagim