Lechem Ha'Panim

Menachot (11:1) | Yisrael Bankier | 12 years ago

With the beginning of the eleventh perek we started learning in more detail about the lechem ha’panim - the “show-bread” placed on the shulchan in the kodesh. One of the laws that we learnt is that baking the lechem ha’panim does not override Shabbat. Therefore, even though the lechem ha’panim stayed on the shulchan for the duration of the week and was replaced on Shabbat, the new bread was baked prior to Shabbat.

This law presents a problem for a well known and fascinating Gemara (Chagigah 26b):

Reish Lakish taught: The Torah refers to the shulchan as “Shulchan Ha’Tahor” implying that it can become tameh. Why? The shulchan is an immobile wooden vessel and therefore cannot become tameh! Rather [indeed it can become tameh because it was movable] as [the Torah] teaches that they would lift the shulchan and show those that came to Jerusalem for the festival the lechem ha’panim. They would say to them “see how dear you are to Hashem, just as they were placed on the Shulchan so are they removed. As R’ Yehoshua explains, a great miracle occurred in the lechem ha’panim; just as it was placed on the shulchan so was it removed. As the pasuk states: “placed hot-bread on the day it was removed” (Shmuel A 26:7)

Rashi explains that the miracle was that even though the lechem ha’panim had been on the shulchan for a week, it was still as hot as when it was placed on the shulchan. Tosfot cannot accept that this was the miracle. He explains that according to our Mishnah the lechem ha’panim was baked on erev Shabbat and therefore, by the time that they were placed on the shulchan they would have cooled down. Instead he offers his own explanation that the miracle was not that they were still hot, but rather that they were still fresh and moist.8 He does offer an explanation for Rashi that perhaps the lechem ha’panim were kept insulated in the warm oven in which they were baked until they were ready to be placed on the Shulchan.

The Beit David argues that Tosfot’s question is not a question at all. He explains that the bread maintained its heat from erev Shabbat to Shabbat also in a miraculous manner; it was part of the miracle. The Shoshanim le’David9 defends the Tosfot that such an answer is not possible as the simple understanding of the Gemara is that the miracle of the lechem ha’panim being removed in the same state as they was placed on the shulchan implies that the placement itself was not under any miraculous circumstances.

The Shoshanim le’David nonetheless rejects the explanation that the Tosfot provided for Rashi. Firstly there is no indication anywhere that the lechem ha’panim had to be kept insulated in the oven. Quite the reverse! In masechet Tamid (31b) we learn that the table in the entrance hall to the kodesh on which the lechem ha’panim were placed, prior to them being placed on the Shulchan, was made of marble. Even though there is a principle of “there should be no poverty in a place of wealth”, marble and not silver or gold was chosen, as the lechem ha’panim were hot when placed on the table and unlike marble, the metals would heat up and spoil the bread as they would be resting there a long time. He understands therefore that they were placed on that table already on erev Shabbat, immediately after baking.10 He therefore explains that when the Gemara says that they were as fresh on the day that “they were placed”, it refers to the day, erev Shabbat, that they were placed on the marble table in the entrance hall.11

Above we learnt that the miracle of the lechem ha’panim maintaining its heat throughout the week demonstrated how dear Am Yisrael is to Hashem. Why? The Imrei Tzvi explains that the students of R’ Shimon ben Yochai asked why Hashem gave Am Yisrael mun each day in the desert and not on a yearly basis. He explained with a parable: there was a king who provided his son with his needs for an entire year, once year. The son however began only to visit him once a year! He therefore changed the policy to provide for his son on a daily basis in order to see him frequently. Similarly, as Bnei Yisrael received food on a daily basis they would be concerned regarding the following day and turn their hearts to Hashem. Another answer however is provided that there were more practical considerations; either Hashem wanted them to have hot food each day, or the load would be too much for them to carry.

The miracle of the lechem ha’panim would seem to support the first answer. If the lechem ha’panim could maintain its heat, so too could the mun in the desert. It must be then that Hashem provided the mun on a daily basis due to his deep love for Am Yisrael and his desire for a connection with us on a daily basis. Similarly, our need to turn constantly to Hashem for sustenance should be interpreted in a similar manner.


8 If one were brave enough they could ask the following question on the Tosfot. The simple understanding is that the olei regalim would be able to “see” the miracle. If the miracle was that it maintained its heat then we do not have a problem. As the Ritva explains (Yoma 21b) the lechem ha’panim was placed on the shulchan when it was steaming hot and this steam was visible at a great distance. But if the bread maintained its moistness, then the olei regalim would need to have come and actually touched the bread. Furthermore the Yerushalmi Shekalim (6:3) specifically states that the miracle was in the maintenance of heat.

One should be aware that in *Menachot* the *Tosfot* offer no
resolution and explain simply that this *Gemara* goes according to
the opinion the baking did override *Shabbat*.

9 Found in the likutim on the Mishnah.

10 He brings the Bartenura Shekalim (6:4) and Tosfot Yom Tov (Menachot 11:7) in support of this idea.

11 The Shoshanim le’David maintains this can be derived by the language that Rashi uses. See inside. One may also find support for this idea in the Taklin Chadatin (Shekalim 6:3, s.v. “ein mazkirin”) who refers to the placement of the lechem ha’panim on the marble table as “techilat siduro”.

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