Shabbat table evolution: From traditional to modern challah cover

Are you in the market for a new challah cover, and unsure whether you want to buy a traditional or modern one? Perhaps my personal story can shed some light on the matter. I don’t have any particular childhood memories of or associations with my family’s challah cover. My childhood Shabbat table memories are all about the music, the zmirot (traditional songs) my parents sang throughout the meals.

When we were younger, my siblings and I used to dance around the table, singing the songs with them, and reveling in the silly hand motions and word plays my father would insert.

When I got married, my husband and I were gifted with two challah covers: a white satin one, and a navy velvet one. Neither one was particularly remarkable, both were very traditional in appearance.

The white challah cover had a pair of candlesticks embroidered on it, while the navy velvet was surrounded by gold fringes, and had two challahs embroidered on it. I began by using the white challah cover, but as it aged and yellowed, I set it aside in favor of the navy velvet one.

Over time, that too lost its charm. I continued to use it, however, until a friend of mine sent me a royal blue, satin challah cover, with Mickey Mouse embroidered on the front. The fabric was the same as that used for one of the Major League Baseball teams, and the challah covers had been manufactured specifically for my friend’s nephew’s bar mitzvah.

At first, the thought of using this seemed somewhat sacrilegious. However, my
kids were young, and I thought they would enjoy seeing it on our Shabbat table.

Many years later, we renovated, and painted our house. I chose a rich purple for the dining room walls as deep colors always spoke to me. My eldest went to Israel that summer, and discovered the Yair Emanuel Judaica challah covers.

Now, making decisions is not this daughter’s strong suit. With so many
elaborate, modern, embroidered challah covers to choose from, she was completely stumped! It would not be an exaggeration to say that it took her two hours to choose a challah cover as a gift for my parents. The cover she chose, with a Shivat HaMinim (the Seven Fruits of Israel) pattern embroidered on it in rich hues, was my family’s introduction to the modern challah cover.

When I had the opportunity to shop for our own new challah cover, I had no hesitation in choosing a modern design that would perfectly complement our dining room décor. I also chose an Emanuel challah cover, but mine was a patchwork in shades of purple and blue, and had “for Shabbat and the Holidays” embroidered on it. With this new addition, I managed to combine the modern with the traditional and to set a beautiful Shabbat table that I hope will forever resonate with my children -- and their children.

Rebecca Ansel made aliya with her husband Cliff this past summer. She is anxiously awaiting the arrival of her lift, including the aforementioned challah cover.


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