Question: We were recently invited to a sheva berachos on Shabbos. Everyone was asked to cover their challa at their place before kiddush. Was this necessary?
Answer: The Gemara (Pesachim 100b) writes that one shouldn’t bring in the table until after one has recited kiddush. Rashbam quotes the Sheiltos who explains that this is to highlight the importance of kiddush. Tosafos adds that as nowadays we sit around a large table rather than our own individual ones and it isn’t practical to bring the table in then, we cover the challos instead. This way we are still honouring the kiddush properly. Tosafos writes that covering the challos also serves to remind us of the man that fell between layers of dew to preserve it.
The Rosh (Pesachim 10:3) and Tur (OC 271:9) quote the Gemara Yerushalmi that teaches that as wheat is listed before wine in the shivas haminim, the beracha for bread should ideally be recited before the beracha for wine. Thus, one should cover one’s challa so as not to embarrass the challa.
Sefer Leket Yosher (OC:p50) relates that the Terumas Hadeshen would recite hamotzi and then give everyone a piece from his challa so that they could partake of the lechem mishne. While those at his table had their own challa, they were not covered. In an era when it was normal for people to get married on Friday and celebrate their chasuna at the Friday night dinner, he writes that only the one making kiddush would need to cover their challos, as only they would need to be concerned about embarrassing the challa.
Following this, R’ Menashe Klein (Mishne Halachos 11:216) writes that we see that the main reason is not to embarrass the challa. As it would have been the man of the house who would have collected the man, it is sufficient just for him to cover his challa.
R’ Ephraim Greenblatt (Rivevos Ephraim 1:200; 2:115:66), however, disagrees. Firstly, we cannot ignore these other reasons, and secondly, when people are listening to another recite kiddush, it is considered as if they are reciting kiddush themselves (shomea keoneh). Thus, everyone should cover their challos.
Likewise, the Mishna Berura (271:41) writes that when one doesn’t have wine and so has to recite kiddush on one’s challa one should still keep the challa covered because of these other reasons.In conclusion, there is a machlokes as to whether others also need to cover their challos while listening to kiddush. While it is commendable to do so, it is not strictly necessary.