Covering the Challa

One must make sure that the challot (and any other bread) that is on the table is covered before one makes kiddush on Shabbat or Yom Tov.[1] The reason for this requirement is due to the general rule that the blessing upon bread takes precedence over all other foods when beginning a meal. Therefore, we cover the challot in order not to “embarrass" them since the wine takes precedence over them at the Shabbat meals as part of the requirements of kiddush.[2]

Covering the challa also recalls that the manna that fell from Heaven was covered with dew.[3] In fact, the challot should be covered on both the top and bottom as the manna was so covered.[4] It is for this reason that most people place the challot on a "challa board" as it serves as the bottom cover.[5] It is interesting to note that kugel,[6] referred to as “pashtida” in Talmudic literature, is also intended to remind us of the manna. This is because kugel often contains a filling which is "covered" by an outer layer. So too, the manna was circular, the same shape that kugel is often baked in.[7]

Some people leave the challa covered until after kiddush, while others wait until after reciting the "hamotzee" to uncover them.[8] One should also cover all other grain products which might be on the table, such as cake and cookies.[9] Some authorities recommend using a white cloth to cover the challot which recalls that the manna was white in color,[10] though any color cloth is acceptable.[11] Although an opaque covering is preferred by some authorities, one may also use a transparent one.[12] In the event that those participating in the meal extend to a number of different tables, the challot on each of the tables should be covered, as well. This is true even if the one reciting kiddush on behalf of everyone is at another table.[13] Other authorities only require the challot on the table where the kiddush is being recited to be covered while at all other tables they may remain uncovered.[14]

In addition to the requirement for the challot to be covered during Kiddush, it is actually might be preferable for there to be no other food whatsoever on the table when Kiddush is recited Friday night. This is a concept referred to as Yikra D'shabbata, the glory of Shabbat.[15] Yikra D'shabbata teaches that it is a greater display of honor to Shabbat for there to be no food on the table when reciting Kiddush Friday night. In fact, some families observe this custom quite strictly and only bring the challot to the table after Kiddush has been recited.[16] Indeed, yet another reason why the challot are covered Friday nights is in order to comply with Yikra D'shabbata. This is because foods which are covered are considered to be non-existent from the perspective of halacha.[17] In fact, contrary to popular misconception, there is actually no requirement for the challot to be on the table at all when kiddush is recited.

It is also considered a display of honor to leave the challot on the table for the entire duration of Shabbat, right from the time they are taken out of the oven or purchased from the bakery.[18] Additionally, placing challot on the table before Shabbat begins ensures that one's table will not become muktza and will be permitted to be moved if needed during Shabbat.[19] Another reason to leave the challot on the table throughout Shabbat is based on the kabbalistic teaching that the challot raise the holiness of the Shabbat table.[20] Some authorities are of the opinion that one should cover the challot at seudat shlishit as well even though kiddush is not recited.[21] Although doing so is not halachically required, it does serve to recall the manna once more.[22]

[1] OC 271:9; Aruch Hashulchan, OC 271:22.

[2] Tur, OC 271.

[3] Pesachim 100b.

[4] Mishna Berura 271:41.

[5] See Be'er Moshe 6:134 regarding the use of Challa boards.

[6] Rema, OC 242:1; Mishna Berura 242:8; Biur Halacha 242.

[7] Ta'amei Haminhagim 125; Minhag Yisrael Torah, OC 274:1.

[8] Mishna Berura 271:41; Minhag Yisrael Torah, OC 271:9.

[9] Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 55:5; Be'er Moshe 6:63.

[10] Elya Rabba 271:16.

[11] Tehilla L'david 271:13.

[12] Yeshuas Chachma 77; Rivevot Ephraim 6:146:2; Minhag Yisrael Torah, OC 271:11.

[13] Rivevot Ephraim 1:200; Az Nidberu 13:6.

[14] Shulchan Shlomo 271:16:3

[15] Tosfot, Pesachim 100b.

[16] Maaseh Rav 118. Cf. Aruch Hashulchan, OC 271:22.

[17] Minhag Yisrael Torah, OC 271:9.

[18] Taz, YD 178:7, Cf. OC 262:1.

[19] Mishna Berura 277:18.

[20] Kaf Hachaim, OC 262:21.

[21] Avnei Derech 1:44.

[22] Kaf Hachaim, OC 271:54; Aruch Hashulchan, OC 291:10, 299:14.