Q. Why do we cover the challah on Shabbot before we say hamotzi? And why do we use two challahs?
A. A simple answer to why we cover the challah is, so we should not embarrass the challah. According to halachah, we give precedence to the bracha of hamotzi; however, we are sanctifying Shabbot with the kiddish first, rather than with the challah; thereby, the challah may get jealous for giving precedence to the wine. So to, we cover the challah respectfully. However, to get the true source behind where this ritual originates we see the source from this week’s parsha.
After the splitting of the Red Sea, Bnai Israel was camping in the desert. While in the desert, Bnai Israel was famished. Hashem revealed to Moshe and Aaron that He will have bread rain down from Heaven. Every morning Bnai Israel would find the bread prepared for them. The earth would be sweep clean by the north wind, and then rain would come and wash the ground. Subsequently, dew came down from Heaven and converted the ground into a shimmering table. Immediately afterwards, the manna would fall down, warm and ready to eat on the table. To protect the manna from being infested with bugs, after it came from Heaven, Hashem provided another layer of dew to protect it. Here we can see how the manna was covered on both sides; thereby, on Shabbot we cover the challah to remember how Hashem provided delicious clean food for Bnai Israel’s in the desert.
Additionally, Hashem commanded that Bnai Israel was to collect only as much as they needed to eat, no more, no less, but on the sixth day, Bnai Israel was to collect two servings of manna in order to honor Shabbot. Hashem was taking care of Bnai Israel daily. Furthermore, on Shabbot, in order to be reminded of the beautiful miracle of manna falling from the Heavens each day, and needing to collect extra manna for Shabbot, we use two challahs during Kiddish to symbolize how great Hashem was to us in the desert.
The Midrash continues telling us that the manna was so Heavenly, it tasted like any flavor one wished and it had the most scrumptious smell. The manna provided Bnai Israel with all the spiritual nourishment they needed.
In all, this Shabbot you should take note at what the challah and challah cover really represent. When you take your first bite into the warm doughy challah, think of the Heavenly manna Hashem provided Bnai Israel all those years in the desert, and all the detail He put into provided them with the most delectable tasting bread. Moreover, learn to have gratitude for the Heavenly Bread Hashem has fortunately given you on this special Shabbot.