Danger of 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. You don’t have to bake the key in the challah. You may shape the challa in the shape of a key, or you can place the key on top of the challah, sprinkle seeds heavily around it, and then remove the key, leaving a key-shaped seedless spot at the top of the challah, or you can use the key as a stencil to cut a flattened piece of dough into a key shape, and place the challah key on top of the challah.

  2. Shlissel challah is not made with a real key in it but make the challah dough in the “shape” of a key or add the key shape dough on top of the challah. Using a real metal or brass key doesn’t make this segulah stronger.

  3. I write my combination to my house on parchment paper, fold it and bake it in my challah. The whole idea of schlissel challah is minhag and as far as I know has no source so I can’t imagine this can go wrong….

  4. “Shlissel challahs are best known as a segulah for parnassah”

    Total myth! Please name me ONE person that was helped davka nogia parnassah because they made some shlissel challa.
    Since when has Yiddishkeit been watered down to alleged “Segulas”?

  5. to 4. We have been doing schlissel challah since I was a kid at least 30+ years ba”h. This is not some newly found segulah as many that have been popping up all over the place. I believe it is brought down in Ta’ame Minhagim.

  6. In response to the comments from ‘Not so fast’ & ‘Snag’, this minhag is broght down in many holy seforim (Oihev Ysroel, Nebei Yiisochor amongst many) who refer to this minhag from prevous generations may be the Ari Hakodosh or his talmidim, so before making your comments beware who you are starting up with

  7. Might the idea be, to send the s’ challahs to your competitor? Or the new shtiebel that’s cutting into your minyan?

  8. “this minhag is broght down in many holy seforim”

    Some of us rely on older, more authoritative seforim like the Torah.

    You may have heard Lo Senachashu this morning.

  9. Unify the front. Make a special key that you can sell that is made specially for baking into challah. Make it safe. Make it big. Make it fun. That way we have a new market on a selling item and we stay safe and the tradition can be safely, fun styled and responsibly transferred from generation to generation. It would be fun right?

  10. The danger of shlissel challah and all other segulos is that people will think that this is the way to have parnassah and will forget that they have to daven straight to the Source of parnassha, HKB”H. Although I have heard of the source of this minhag, neither my parents or in laws ever heard of it. They are from Poland, Hungary and from Lithuania. It was not apparantly a widespread minhag. Maybe that’s why the European Yidden were so poor:)

  11. No 17…No one has said that just bakeing Shlissel challah is all you have to do for Parnossa.We all know we have to daven for it.People might think that that is also all you have to do,just daven,recite Parshas Hamon every day,sit on youre backside and the money comes rolling in under the door.Definately not so! One needs a mighty dose of good old fashioned Hishtadlus besides all the other segulois.A combination of all that you’ve correctly suggested plus my important ingredient will do the trick if one has the Emunah as well.