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Friday, June 08, 2012

Be'ha'aloscha, Bamidbar 11:7. The Color of the Mahn

Rav Yehoshua ibn Shu'ib, (Spain 1280-1340, a talmid of the Rashba,) in his drashos on this week's parsha, writes that one should cover the Challa with white covers.  Similarly, the Eliah Rabba (OC 271 SK 16) brings from the Tzeida Laderech that the cover should be white.  (Actually, the Tzeida Laderech says that whole tablecloth should be white.   Considering that ibn Shu'ib was the rebbi of Rav Menachem ben Zerach, author of the Tzeida LaDerech, it is very likely that the Tzeida Laderech is just quoting his rebbi.  On the one hand, that means that the ibn Shu'ib really did mean 'white', but on the other hand, it makes it likely that ibn Shu'ib also meant the whole tablecloth, not the covers of the challos.  But this doesn't matter.  The Achronim take it to refer to the challah cover, so we will, too.) Achronim ask why the cover should be white, and some suggest that Levanos simply means Clean, as we find in the issur of Libun on Shabbos, where Libun means removal of dirt.  In Shulchan Aruch, it just says that the cover should be clean.

Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach is quoted as saying that the cover of the Challos can be transparent, because the main purpose is to physically cover the Challah, as a remembrance of the Mahn which was also covered, and not to hide it from exposure to the wine.  So, what to do? White or transparent?  This is not a momentous question.  I guarantee that nobody is going to give a din v'cheshbon on having the wrong color challa cover.  But..... read on.

It so happens that the Malbim in Parshas Beshalach (Shemos 16:31) asks that there, the Torah describes the Mahn as beinוהוא כזרע גד לבן, while in our parsha, in 11:7, it is described as והמן כזרע גד הוא ועינו כעין הבדולח.  In Beshalach it is called Zera Gad Lavan, while in Behaaloscha it is just called Zera Gad.  He answers that the whole week, the Mahn was transparent, but on Shabbos it was white, and Parshas Beshalach is talking its appearance specifically on Shabbos.

(I've always thought that Lavan sometimes is used to mean transparent; although the words בהיר צלול and  שקוף are more clear, so to speak, I think that when the Gemara talks about זכוכית לבנה, the most valuable and extravagant kind of glass, they mean colorless.  As evidence, see Pliny's Natural History book 37, where he says "Still, however, the highest value is set upon glass that is entirely colourless and transparent, as nearly as possible resembling crystal, in fact. "  Transparent and translucent are to some extent on a continuum.)

If so, we might say that this would explain why on Shabbos, the covers of the Challos should be white, but on Yamim Tovim, you can use whatever color you want, including transparent.  In fact, maybe transparent would be especially appropriate for Yomtov.  To be yotzei le'chol hadei'os, use a white cover inside transparent vinyl.

(See also here, which, if it matters, I saw after I got ready to write this.  The only thing new that I saw there was the Ibn Shu'ib, and as I pointed out above, that's just the Tzeida Laderech in an earlier iteration.  On the other hand, the mar'ei mekomos that I did have were basically from Rav Shimon Kalman Goldstein.  Yasher Koach.)

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