A fabulous collection of challah covers made in Israel by Yair Emanuel, Kaftor Vaferach, Malchut Yerushalayim, Art Judaica, Tiferet, Barbara Shaw, Gabrieli and more. From traditional velvet designs to modern challah covers in raw silk. Materials include terylene, velvet, silk, raw silk, organza, linen, faux leather and leather.
Most of the very popular, affordably-priced Yair Emanuel items are made from a very lightweight fabric, whereas leather and velvet challah covers have a much more substantial feel. The linen products are somewhere in between.
Challah covers make a great wedding gift idea. With a broad price range (from $15 to $100 and more) you can choose one that fits your gift budget. Another advantage is that they are not fragile and light in weight, meaning shipping is quite practical, and they are the type of present that is not at all superfluous if another wedding guest brought one as a gift as well.
Perhaps for centuries, velvet has been the dafault fabric. Keep in mind that a high-quality velvet challah cover will cost significantly more than cheap velvet. The difference is not readily apparent in a product image viewed on a screen, but you will immediately discern the difference up close, when you can actually see and feel the product. Therefore you may well come across a velvet challah cover that costs $20 and a similar one priced at $30 or $40.
Also, note the dimensions. In recent years Israel-based embroidery studios began making very large velvet challah covers. One leading embroidery company, Malchut Jerusalem, now makes each challah cover model in small, medium and large sizes. This can be a significant factor in the price. A big challah cover makes an indelible impression when given as a present, but may be less practical for a newlywed couple.
Colors, designs and fabric
Typically the base color is a super dark navy, but white cloth challah covers are also common. The designs tend to feature traditional motifs with the words Shabbat and Yom Tov embroidered in Hebrew. In recent years many velvet challah cover designers have started incorporating metallic elements (sometimes referred to as Swarovsky stones) that complement the embroidery work, and add a bit to the price.
Another material used, especially by Yair Emanuel, is raw silk. With this type of challah cover the main cost is the embroidery work. An attractive machine-embroidered design might cost just $20 or $25, yet you may find yourself irresistibly captivated by a hand-embroidery design that ups the price to $40 or $50.
Other possibilities include linen, leather and faux leather challah covers, which have a substantial feel and hold up quite well over time. Usually the design work and colors tend to be more subtle, compared with silk.
Covering the challah
Why are we supposed the cover the challah to begin with? The challah cover has three main purposes:
- Just as the mannah in the Desert was covered with dew, we recall this by covering our challah with a cloth.
- On Shabbat, we make Kiddush over wine before saying a blessing over the challah. Since bread, the staff of life, is more essential than wine, and should be given precedence, to spare its "feelings" we cover it up until it's actually time to eat. For details on this, see here
- To establish that the meal comes because of the Kiddush
Some practical differences actually emerge from each of the above reasons. For an explanation go to this thread.