An article in the September 15, 2006, edition of "Forward" tells of the sweet challah bread that is on every Rosh Hashanah table throughout the Jewish world. Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish New Year and it is equivalent to the Feast of the Trumpets in the Bible (Leviticus 23:23-25). Challah is a sweet bread especially made for the occasion to symbolize the desire for a sweet and good year. It is usually baked in a round or spiral shape. This roundness is used to symbolize the round crowns of the righteous and the cycle of the year. Since a circle has no end, it also indicates the desire for a long life.
Some challahs, though, are in other shapes. The Hasidic community bakes them in the shape of birds in reference to Isaiah 31:5 - "As birds flying, so will the LORD of hosts defend Jerusalem; defending also he will deliver it; and passing over he will preserve it." Another challah is made in the form of a ladder, pointing to Isaiah 5:15-16 - "And the mean man shall be brought down, and the mighty man shall be humbled, and the eyes of the lofty shall be humbled: But the LORD of hosts shall be exalted in judgment, and God that is holy shall be sanctified in righteousness."
The word, challah, "comes from the piece of dough that the priests of the Temple were commanded to give as an offering [Numbers 15:19-21]. The custom of setting aside a part of the bread continued, and eventually the separation of a portion of challah became one of the duties incumbant on a Jewish woman. Even today, many observant women bake their bread at home so that they can separate the required portion of dough and burn it."