Judaism is full of paradoxes. Just over a week ago I was covering every chometz-dik surface of my kitchen in shiny aluminum. And now, I’m wrapping keys in foil and stuffing them in dough bubbling with yeast.
A Bissel Shlissel Challah
There is a custom called in Yiddish, “Shlissel (key) Challah.” We insert a key, or shape our challos like a key, to signify that we understand our basic necessities in life as well as our creature comforts are stored for us in shamayim behind locked gates. All we have to do is ask Hashem, the Heavenly Gatekeeper, to unlock the gates and fill our homes with blessing.
Why especially on the first Shabbos after Pesach do we make a Shlissel Challah? I mean, for most of us, we need an "easy" Shabbos, not one up to our elbows working in dough and waiting hours for it to rise.
This time of is appropriate because in the spring, soon after Pesach, the B’nei Yisrael finally entered the Land of Israel. It was a time of transition in the seasons as well as in the way we received our sustenance.
We had been eating the gift of mann from Heaven and now had to begin eating the fruit of the Land, food that seemed to come to us as a direct result of our own effort.
By placing a key in (or on) our challah at the same time of year as we change from receiving mann to working the Land for food, we are saying that the key to both belongs to Hashem. And just as He unlocked the gates of sustenance to provide for us in those days in Eretz Yisrael, may He provide us with our needs now, wherever we may be.
Eye of the Needle
Another beautiful insight into the custom is from Shir Hashirim, which we just read on Shabbos of Pesach. Sages say the verse: Open for Me, My sister, My beloved means that when we give Hashem a small opening, like the eye of a needle, He will open up a huge opening through which to pour His blessing.
During Pesach all the upper gates are open and after Pesach they close. We need to open them. So, we put a key in the challah now as the “small opening” in preparing for Shabbos; a hint to Hashem that, in this merit, may He open and bless us with good from His storehouses and the heavens.
Days ago, chometz was spiritual poison and now it signifies our special relationship. That is another point. On Pesach we moved from slavery to freedom, but this does not mean we do not serve a master. Our service has eternal meaning~ because our Master is The King.