And you shall place on the shulchan [table] showbread before Me tamid [at all times].
That is, the shulchan must have its lechem hapanim (showbread) – tamid! A fascinating Mishnaic dispute probes the nature of this tamid obligation: [Menachos 99b]
And within [the sanctuary] was the Shulchan where the showbread lay continually. Four priests entered, two bearing the two rows [of the new showbread] in their hands and two bearing …; and four went in before them, two to take away the two rows [of the old showbread] and two … … these withdrew [the old] and the others laid down [the new], the handbreadth of the one being by the side of the handbreadth of the other, for it is written, before me continually.
For the Sages tamid means continuously. Not a moment may pass without the lechem hapanim on the table. R. Yossi disagrees:
R. Yossi says, even if they took away the old and then the others laid down the new, this too fulfils the requirement of continually’. Even if the old [Showbread] was taken away in the morning and the new was set down in the evening there is no harm. How then am I to explain the verse, ‘Before me continually’? [It teaches that] the table should not remain overnight without bread.
An apparently technical dispute seems to be the issue. What does tamid mean? Is it consistency [as in the daily korban tamid] or constancy [as in the aish tamid of the altar]. The mishkan has both. The question here is in which category do we file the lechem hapanim?
To the depth of the matter we shall return.
For a moment, let us ponder that lechem hapanim – shulchan imperative A fascinating Zohar illuminates: [2:154]
This table stood in the Tabernacle, and there rested upon it the blessing from above, and from it issued nourishment to the whole world. Not for a moment was that Table to remain empty, since blessing does not rest upon an empty place. Therefore the show-bread had always to be renewed each Sabbath (Vayikra, 24:8), in order that the blessing from above might always rest upon it, and that food and blessing, because of it, might emanate from that table to all the tables of the world.
In the post-Creation reality, something can not come from nothing; the shulchan becomes the vehicle of material blessing – but only when there is a shtickele food there already. And since material blessing is constantly needed in a material world – the lechem hapanim can not be removed from the Shulchan! Add in the Shabbos-blessing into the mix and the Shulchan becomes the Mishkan’s pre-eminent conduit of bounty.
Our Zohar yields an interesting and common custom to not remove the table crumbs before we bentsch:
So, too, should every man's table be when he says grace after meals; in order that the blessing from above should rest upon it, it should not be empty, as the Companions have indicated in connection with the words of Elisha to the widow: “Tell me, what hast thou in the house?” (2 Kings IV, 2).
An astounding midrash takes it to the next level: [Midrash Agadah, 2:83]
Tamid – even in impurity … Tamid even when they were traveling , there was bread on the table
The lechem hapanim even hit the road with the shulchan. It is as if the shulchan and the bread are inseparable!
A 2nd Shulchan notion flows in a totally different direction:
Rabbeinu Ephraim taught: If there is no flour, there is no Torah and the Torah is called lechem as it says go and fight over my bread [lachamu b’lachmi]
In other words, the lechem is the Torah – while the shulchan itself represents the material bounty that is oriented towards supporting Torah-study. Indeed, the aforementioned gemara itself connects the dots:
… From these words of R. Yossi we learn that even though a man learns but one chapter in the morning and one chapter in the evening he has thereby fulfilled the precept of ‘This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth’
The gemara forges what might seem like a random connection: for R. Yossi, just as the showbread need not always be there, so does one not always have to learn Torah throughout the day. Whither the connection?
Using Rabbeinu Ephraim’s notion, our gemara is quite beautiful. One engaged in the material world must take time out from learning. Work takes time – lots of it. Many baalabatim [and Shul Rabbis] don’t have that much time to learn. Indeed, in life there may be lots of table-time without lechem hapanim - And yet it is still tamid!
Why? As long as the Jew remembers the goal, then out of sight need not be out of mind.
Thus a famous Tosafos ponders why it is enough for the Jew to make a blessing on Torah in the morning and then work for hours on end and then come back to learn Torah without a bracha. What happened to the hefsek interruption? His classic answer returns us full circle:
Why is it different than Sukkah that requires one to bless for each meal … Torah is different for one does not ever lose connection/hope to Torah for one is obligated to learn every moment and it is as if he has sat the whole day without interruption
A Jew can be Torah even if when is he not learning Torah as long as he remembers that its for the Torah! As we go out in the braod and beautiful world , let us be before Hashem – tamid.