Bountiful Breads

Naaleh_logo Shiur provided courtesy of

Shira Smiles shiur 2020/5780

Adapted by Channie Koplowitz Stein

While in Parshat Terumah Hashem gave instructions for constructing many of the vessels for the Mishkan, Parshat Emor tells us how some of these vessels and utensils are to be used. Following instructions on lighting the menorah and ensuring that the flame will be continuous and everlasting, Hashem instructs Moshe on the use of the Table, built with a golden crown/rim. On every Shabbat, the kohein shall place two stacks of six loaves each, for a total of twelve loaves, on this Table. “Each and every Shabbat he shall arrange them before Hashem continually, from Bnei Yisroel as an eternal covenant/brit olam.” These loaves are referred to as lechem hapanim/show bread/face bread, for it is placed before God and symbolizes Hashem’s eternal presence and continuous providence in our lives, an eternal covenant. These loaves, like Shabbat itself, are also referred to as an eternal covenant. Like Shabbat, they represent an eternal relationship between Hashem and Bnei Yisroel, and Hashem’s eternal providence over our lives, writes Rabbi S. R. Hirsch. Each week in preparation for Shabbat, when the new loaves are placed on the Table, the previous loaves will be removed and given to the kohanim who will eat them in a holy place.

Our Sages extrapolate that these show breads remained as fresh on the day they were removed, a full week after after they were placed on the table, as they were when originally placed there, for the kohanim would partake of the “old” loaves. This is alluded to in Pirkei Avot as one of the ten miracles Hashem wrought for us in the Beit Hamikdosh, that no defect/spoilage was ever found in the show breads.

The passage about the show bread is immediately followed by the disturbing narrative of the son of an Israelite woman cursing God and blaspheming. By juxtaposing these two passages, we are immediately led to look for a connection between them. While Rashi immediately comments that this man mocked the law of giving the bread to the kohanim, Rabbi Igvi in Chochmat Hamatzpun wonders how this can be so when everyone present could see that the bread was still hot and fresh. What was his underlying problem?

Bread in the Torah is more than just a baked food, notes Rabbi Frand. It symbolizes complete sustenance, for,”it is not by bread alone..., but by that which is uttered by the mouth of God will man live.” This is why, as the Gemoro notes, when the show bread was divided among the kohanim, even a small morsel would satiate them, writes Rav Pam. The constant presence of these loaves on the shulchan/table was, like Shabbat, a channel through which Hashem provided constant sustenance to Bnei Yisroel, that Hashem provides all our needs and sustenance. The very measurements of the table allude to this idea, 2 cubits x 1 cubit x 1 ½ cubits high. Citing the Chofetz Chaim, Rabbi Pam notes the full measures of the length and width indicate that a Jew must believe that he has everything at whatever measure of parnasshah Hashem has decreed for him The symbolism of the half cubit indicates that while his physical needs are exactly met, he should always strive to higher levels of spirituality, and Hashem should give him the strength to reach ever higher, for there is always room for improvement. One is never complete spiritually.

Just as the show breads were the source of blessings and sustenance, so too is Shabbos a source of blessing. As everything connected to Shabbos is doubled, like the two loaves on our Shabbat table, so were the loaves on the Tabernacle Table stacked in two groups, indicating that all the blessings of the other six days of the week come from Above through Shabbat. Indeed many have the custom of creating twelve in the breads on the Shabbat table. Some may have twelve small rolls. Others may have long loaves resembling the letter vov, multiplied by two loaves equals twelve. [My mother a”h baked her challahs in two ways. Some she braided with six strands and others she made into long loaves of six sections each. Either way, two challahs would equal twelve. CKS] The loaves in the Mikdash were facing [panim] Heaven, indicating that all the world’s sustenance comes from Above. In fact, the gold wreath that encircled the top resembled a crown, notes the Shvilei Pinchas, indicating the wealth that the show breads symbolically brought down to the world.

The twelve loaves divided in two stacks also alluded to the two stones on the priest’s ephod, each stone engraved with the names of six of the tribes of Bnei Yisroel. The Shvilei Pinchas here cites a profound and beautiful insight from the Baal HaRokeach. Here the Shvilei Pinchas brings us back to the end of Yaakov Avinu’s life. When Yaakov Avinu wanted to reveal the time of Moshiach’s arrival, Hashem withdrew prophecy from Yaakov. Yaakov feared that perhaps one of his sons did not properly serve Hashem, was not properly in awe of Him. To this, the twelve brothers replied, “Shema Yisroel Hashem Elokheinu Hashem Echod/Hear, O Israel, [we fully believe] Hashem is our God, Hashem is the One and Only.” Being thus reassured, Yaakov responded with, “Boruch Shem kevod malchuto le’olam vaed/Blessed is the Name of His glorious kingdom for all eternity.” The dialogue between Yaakov and his sons consists of two verses of six words each. When we place two loaves of six of the Shabbos table, we are reaffirming that commitment to the One God, as it was reaffirmed each Shabbat in the Mikdosh. In the merit of the challah every week on our Shabbos tables, when we reaffirm this belief, Hashem sends sustenance down to the world for the six days of the coming week.

From the Revid Hazahav, the Shvilei Pinchas brings us a fascinating idea again connecting us to Yaakov Avinu and to the physical blessings Shabbat brings. The medrash tells us that Yaakov and his twin Esau were already fighting each other in the womb. There they came to an agreement. Yaakov would inherit the spiritual world, using the necessities of the physical world only to sustain his life, while Esau would keep the entire physical world. When Esau came in famished, Yaakov sold him the soup kayom/[as of/just like] this day for Esau’s birthright as the firstborn. According to this interpretation, “this day” referred to Shabbat, so that Yaakov could observe the mitzvah of oneg Shabbat/[physical] enjoyment of Shabbat. Therefore, we can enjoy special foods and activities on Shabbat and still maintain the agreement between Yaakov and Esau.

Continuing this train of thought, we can understand why Yaakov now merited the physical blessings originally meant for Esau. Since abundance and wealth are predicated on the joy one invests in observing Shabbat, Esau ceded that day’s joy to Yaakov, and Yaakov could be blessed with abundance for all the other days of the week based on the joy he invested in his Shabbat observance. Based on what we invest in Shabbat, in buying and preparing special food and wearing special clothing, we too merit blessings for the rest of the week. We also bring the spiritual blessings of sanctity and the covenant of peace to the rest of the week. All this we should have in mind as we partake of our special Shabbos bread reminds us Rabbi Mintzberg. However, one must have the proper mindset to experience the joy of Shabbat both in its physical and spiritual aspects.

This brings us back to our second question, the connection between the show breads and the man who blasphemed. The blasphemer did not believe the show breads remained fresh for the entire week. While he believed in a Creator, notes Rabbi Frand, he could not believe that Hashem was involved in our daily lives and sustenance. By remaining fresh the entire week, the show breads bore witness that it is Hashem Who provides our sustenance. The Torah records the initial six days of creation, but Hashem recreates the world, borei/present tense, continuously. We need to overcome our perception that we are in control, reminds us the Sifsei Chaim, and remember that our personal work is only Hashem’s tool in providing for us, much as the ax is the tool in the woodcutters hands. When Shabbos comes, we have to feel that in fact all our work is done, all the work that Hashem allowed us to complete is done. If I believe Hashem is my Shepherd, then I shall not be in want, I shall need nothing. My observance of Shabbat has blessed me and my work.

The miracle of the show breads was not just history, but something experienced by all of Bnei Yisroel three times a year when they went up to Yerushalayim for the festivals. The kohanim would show the bread, still hot and fresh, to the assembled people to publicize the miracle and show Bnei Yisroel how Hashem loves us.

Rabbi Reiss develops this idea in MeiroshTzurim. Rabbi Reiss explains that the loaves were arranged in two stacks to reflect the dual relationship between Hashem and Hakodosh Boruch Hu. That the bread remained fresh represents our commitment to keeping the Torah and mitzvoth always new, never allowing it to become stale [chametz, CKS]. The second stack is Hashem’s response, that His relationship with us will also always never get old or stale.

But we see that to which we are attuned to, continues Rabbi Reiss. The blasphemer’s attitude toward Hashem was already cold, inherited from his Egyptian father. Therefore he could not discern the steam coming from the loaves. He saw the bread already stale, reflecting his own perspective, his own panim/face. How many of us are attuned to the songs all nature sings in praise of Hakodosh Boruch Hu? We each have our unique frequency with which to connect to God, to others and to the world in general. Sometimes it is necessary to turn on the DC/ direct current (as the electricity of Eretz Yisroel- CKS) and turn off the Alternating Current to be electrified by our connection to Hashem. The blasphemer’s frequency just gave him static, nothing meaningful. As the Ner Uziel says, Hashem’s relationship to us mirrors the face of our relationship with Him.

Not only does our perception influence what we see, but what we see also influences us in the future. In this regard, Rabbi Mordechai Druck notes that we are still suffering for the sin of the golden calf because, even if most of us did not participate in the sin, we still observed it, and it had an effect on us. Therefore we should try to see the spiritual aspect of everything. The kohein, his soul filled with the spiritual aspect of the show bread, could be physically satiated with even a small morsel of the bread.

Even the manna took on the taste only of what taste you literally brought to the table. Otherwise the manna itself was tasteless, said the Chofetz Chaim. The experience of Shabbos, like the manna, is connected to your thoughts, writes the Slonimer Rebbe, the Netivot Shalom. Is Shabbos simply a day to sleep and eat, or is it a day of holiness and connection?

It is up to us to recognize the special sanctity of Shabbos and approach the day ready for the experience. During the week, we try to create islands of sanctity, to set times for learning Torah for example. But Shabbos is a day of total sanctity, writes Rabbi Pincus. We can study Torah all day, or spend time in pursuit of many mitzvoth. We are home in our total island of sanctity each week. We don’t have to search for the moments, like a traveler in search of physical food. We just have to approach the spiritual fridge, open it, and fill our souls as well as our bodies.

The challas on our Shabbos tables, representing the loaves in the Sanctuary represent our eternal covenant with Hakodosh Boruch Hu. As our Sages say, even more than Bnei Yisroel keeps Shabbos, Shabbos keeps, protects, and provides for Bnei Yisroel. Shabbat is truly shalom.