Monday, January 31, 2011

Bread and Miracles

"For the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven, and gives life to the world." Then they said to Him, "Lord, always give us this bread." Yeshua said to them, "I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst." John 6:33-35

Inside the Tabernacle stood the Table of the lechem haPanim--the Bread of the Presence -also called shewbread. On the table the priesthood placed 12 loaves continually before the LORD. The priests exchanged the bread with fresh loaves every Sabbath. When the priests placed the fresh bread on the table, they removed and ate the old bread. It was their Sabbath bread.

The 12 loaves symbolize the 12 tribes. Leviticus 25 tells us that the bread was baked fresh and then placed before the LORD each Sabbath. The ritual of fresh challah (a slightly sweet egg bread) on our Sabbath tables reminds us of this aspect of the Tabernacle service.

Through this process, the bread was offered before the LORD and then to the priests. In this sense, it constituted a shared meal between the priests (representing all Israel) and the LORD.

Several miracles are associated with the bread of the presence. There is a tradition that the bread stayed fresh and warm all week long. The priests used to lift up the table of the bread of the presence and display it to those who came up for the pilgrimage festivals, saying to them, "Behold, God's love for you!" How did the bread show them "God's love for you"? Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi had taught, "A great miracle was wrought in regard to the bread of the presence, for at its removal it was as fresh and warm as when it was set upon the table [a week before], as it is written, 'Hot bread when it was taken away.'" (b.Menachot 29A quoting 1 Samuel 21:6)

The Second Temple era priesthood was so large the 12 loaves was not sufficient to feed them all. As a result, each priest received only a morsel. When God's favor was on the nation, a miracle happened and each priest was fully satiated though he had eaten scarcely more than a crumb. In addition, when the priests had eaten and been satisfied, they found that there were yet leftovers. Every priest who received a piece of the bread the size of an olive would eat it and be satisfied, and some would eat it and have leftovers. (Yoma 38a)

The miracle of Yeshua feeding the multitudes with the five loaves and all of them being fed and satisfied is a strong allusion to this tradition. A further correlation to the bread of the presence can be seen by combining the two feeding miracles. In the Matthew 14 incident He breaks five loaves. In the Matthew 15 incident He breaks seven loaves. Five loaves plus seven loaves makes 12 loaves. They all ate, they were satisfied, and they gathered leftovers. 2009

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