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challah cover is a special cloth
used to cover the two braided loaves (challah) set out on the table at
the beginning of a Shabbat or Yom Tov meal. While its appearance lends
a decorative and ceremonial aspect to the set table, its presence
serves both a halakhic and symbolic function.
At the beginning of a Shabbat or holiday meal, a blessing must first
be made over the wine (Kiddush) in order to the sanctify the Shabbat.
This is followed by the blessing over the bread (challah), which
begins the meal. However, in the hierarchy of blessings mandated by
the Sages, the blessing over bread should precede the blessing over
wine. In order to preserve the priority of the wine, and not to
"shame" the bread which should be blessed first, the bread is
“removed” by concealing it from view with the challah cover.
In the absence of a challah cover, one may use a napkin, doily,
tissues, or similar covering.