ו׳ בכסלו ה׳תשע״ט (November 14, 2018)

Menahot 96a-b: The Table

As we have learned, the table in the Temple served to hold the 12 loaves of the leḥem ha-panim – the Shewbread. On today’s daf Reish Lakish teaches that the table, together with its loaves, served a unique purpose in the Temple.

Reish Lakish teaches that when the Torah talks about the “pure” table in the Temple (see Vayikra 24:6), it implies that the table could become ritually defiled. This demands explanation, since vessels that cannot be moved are not subject to the laws of ritual purity. He explains that the table was, in fact, moved, since the priests would take the table out of the Temple to show it to the pilgrims who came bringing sacrifices during the holidays. The table was shown to them based on Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi’s teaching that the table showed God’s direct love of the Children of Israel inasmuch as it represented an ongoing miracle – the loaves that were placed on the table at the beginning of the week remained warm and fresh when they were removed and eaten at the end of the week.

From the story that is told it appears that the kohanim actually removed the table from the Temple and took it out – together with the loaves that were on it – to show to the pilgrims. The aḥaronim explain that although the throngs of people could not have seen and felt the loaves themselves, the miracle was described to them by the kohanim who accompanied the public presentation, and their description was accepted by the people as true. Some suggest that the warmth of the loaves gave off a little bit of steam, which was, in fact, visible to the pilgrims.

The Sefat Emet adds that God’s love of the Jewish people was connected to the 12 loaves in particular, as these 12 loaves, representative of the 12 Tribes, were removed and eaten on, the day that invests the entire workweek with Divine blessings.