THE BUILDING OF THE MISHKAN
(Tabernacle), the portable sanctuary, the goal of the Exodus is within view:
to create a community in which
is at the center.
they shall make for Me a Sanctuary, that I may dwell among them (Shemot
ASPECT OF THE MISHKAN teaches us how
to serve Hashem.
THE INSTRUCTIONS FOR BUILDING THE ARON
(Ark of the Covenant), the next item discussed is the Shulchan (Table), made of shittim
(acacia wood) overlaid with gold. But
this is no ordinary flat table – it supports a system of twelve shelves,
upon which rest the twelve loaves of lechem
These special loaves were baked in iron molds, giving them a number of
sides, or faces; hence, the name lechem
ha’panim, “bread of faces.”
THE LECHEM HA’PANIM remained warm
and fresh all week, as it says:
the showbread that was taken from before Hashem, to put hot bread on the day
when it was taken away
(I Shmuel 21:7).
LATER HISTORY WHEN THE PEOPLE came to the Temple on the Pilgrimage Festivals,
the Kohanim would lift the Shulchan
to show them the still-warm loaves, proclaiming, “See how much Hashem loves
you!” (Menachot 29a).
SHABBAT, THE LECHEM HA’PANIM were
replaced by the Kohanim:
Shabbat he shall set it in order before Hashem continually . . . (Vayikra
TWELVE LOAVES from the previous week would be divided among the Kohanim.
The Kohen Gadol received six
loaves, while the other six loaves were divided up among the two watches of Kohanim
– the ones concluding their
week’s service and those beginning theirs.
Even a piece of the lechem
ha’panim as small as a bean was enough to satisfy (Yoma
you shall set on the table showbread before Me always
(LEFANAI TAMID) (Shemot 25:30).
TO THE VIEW THAT RAMBAM accepts, LEFANAI TAMID means the
presence of the lechem ha’panim on
This has a number of ramifications:
ARRANGEMENT OF THE LECHEM HA’PANIM,
therefore, serves two functions:
DUALITY IS REFLECTED in the fact that the Rambam
writes about the Shulchan and lechem
ha’panim in two contexts, when dealing with the service
of the Sanctuary (Temidim u’musafim
5:1,4) and when dealing with the construction of the Sanctuary and its
appurtenances (Beit ha’bechira,
1:7; 3:15). This derives from the
requirement that the lechem ha’panim
be on the Shulchan “before
Me always” (LEFANAI TAMID).
MUST THIS BE?
The Ramban explains that the Shulchan
is the source of material blessing for Israel. However, after the universe was created ex nihilo, it is now the will of Hashem that blessing will emanate
only from existent things. To
mention two examples: When the
prophet Eliyahu provided for the woman of Tzarfat, the
pitcher of flour did not cease and the bottle of oil was not lacking (I
Kings 17:16); and, when the prophet Elisha provided for the wife of the
prophet, a blessing rested on her cruse of oil and she filled all her vessels
from it (II Kings 4:1-7). Similarly,
the Shulchan must be constantly
supplied with the lechem ha’panim,
in order that Hashem may grant His material blessing for all of Israel.