Passover on Shabbat: How do we cover the mazah?

There are big halachic (Jewish law) implications and discussions for when Passover begins on Shabbat (Friday night). A very important question was recently posed to me: Since this year (2012) Passover begins on Shabbat, could you use a (batik) challah cover that says Shabbat Shalom (Good Sabbath) for the Passover Seder?

I’m no rabbi, but I do have some thoughts on the matter:

If it’s a new cover, one that has never actually touched a challah, it’s ok to use it on Passover, regardless of what is printed on it. Unlike the challah, which is covered during the other Friday night blessings so it wont be jealous of being blessed/recognized last, the matzah recognizes it is part of a long Seder process. The matzah sits on the seder table alongside the Seder plate, full of ritual objects, all of which get pointed out at their right time. Matzah is a humble bread and ok with no big signpost to it’s existence.

If however, the cover was involved in some leavened activities (like covering a challah) from the period of its formation until the first night of Passover, it is not ok to use it.

If it is a cover that was made in Eretz Yisroel (the land of Israel) and bought in a sealed package, and only unsealed at the Passover table, it is ok to use.

If it is a cover made by young children in the Far East for only pennies, as part of a system that perpetuates their lives in squalid conditions and the growth of multinational corporations, it is not ok to use.

If it a cover made by a local artisan, it is ok to use.

Thanks to photographer Joe Driscoll, you can see photos of my matzah covers here, or pictures of his life, coffee habits and travels here.