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NEWS FLASH:

After 2000 years, FRESH SHOWBREAD is being baked in Israel Today

 

"And you shall take fine flour and bake it [into] twelve loaves. Each loaf shall be [made from] two tenths [of an ephah of flour]. And you place them in two stacks, six in each stack, upon the pure table, before the HaShem. And you shall place pure frankincense alongside each stack, and it shall be a reminder for the bread, a fire offering to the Lord. Each and every Sabbath day, he shall set it up before HaShem [to be there] continuously, from the children of Israel an eternal covenant. And it shall belong to Aharon and his sons, and they shall eat it in a holy place, for it is holy of holies for him, among the fire offerings of the HaShem, an eternal statute." Leviticus 24:5-9

Following intensive experimentation and in-depth research based on traditional Jewish texts, as well as other ancient sources, experts have succeeded in recreating the showbread that was placed by the priests on the golden showbread table inside the sanctuary of the Holy Temple, bringing Israel and the world one step closer to the renewal of the Divine service.

For the first time since the Holy Temple was destroyed by the Romans 1,940 years ago, (in 70 CE), showbread, (lechem panim), has again been baked in the land of Israel. During the era that the first and second Holy Temple was standing, twelve loaves of showbread were baked on the premises, in the southeastern corner of the Beit HaMoked located inside the inner Temple Courtyard, once every week. On Shabbat the freshly baked loaves were bought by priests into the Kodesh Sanctuary of the Temple, where they were placed upon the golden Showbread Table. Simultaneously, the previous week's twelve loaves were removed and taken back to the Beit HaMoked, where they were eaten, still fresh, by the priests. Differences of opinion over how the bread was baked and how its unique shape was achieved have existed until this day, but now the recipe has been rediscovered, enabling the bread to be baked once again, in accordance with the Torah commandments and the descriptions of the bread's special attributes, which appear in the ancient literature of the sages of Israel.

Priests bringing the showbread and offerings on Shabbat.

 

This first of its kind scientific-historical research project, run under the auspices of Professor Zohar Amar of Bar Ilan University, includes on its team archaeologists, nutritional engineer Arye Cohen, the Shteibel wheat mill, the Sharon Portos labs for food additives, and the Shifon bakery, located in the Sha'ar Binyamin industrial park north of Jerusalem.

Professor Amar has previously done groundbreaking research into the sources of the components of the ketoret incense used in the Holy Temple, and the sources of the biblical colors used for dying the garments of the High Priest, the techelet, (sky-blue), argaman, (purple), and tola'at sheni, (scarlet). Professor Amar has worked closely with the Temple Institute, most recently harvesting the tola'at sheni worms for use in dying, and in preparing the techelet, argaman and tola'at sheni used for dying the threads woven into the avnet belt of the lay priests.

The result: At the conclusion of many attempts at kneading and baking the dough, the new-old baked showbread is vaguely reminiscent of a large matza, and has been baked in two different shapes. And yes, the freshness of the bread remains and can be eaten even after one week, not an easy accomplishment in itself.

Professor Amar relates that after gathering all the relevant information from the ancient sources, from both without and within the body of Jewish literature, the archaeological team searched for evidence of the type of flour used during the time of the Holy Temple. "It appears that the wheat used in those days was not the same wheat we use today for baking bread. It was similar to the wheat used for making pasta in Italy."

(left) Priests placing the news loaves on the table; (right) Priests eating the showbread in the Beit HaMoked.

 

It was also discovered that each time the Hebrew word "sollet" is used in Torah, it signified the method with which the flour was ground. Since Torah forbids the use of yeast in the Holy Temple, other leavening agents were necessary. Forty minutes is required for the kneading process. The bread is baked in large ovens, forty centimeters by eighty centimeters, with eight centimeter thick walls. Gemara relates that a recurring miracle guaranteed that the show bread remained fresh for one week from the day it was baked, without the need for closed storage or refrigeration. Professor Amar's recipe has succeeded in maintaining freshness for the duration of one week. The shape of the bread is achieved by using baking forms, as it was done in the Holy Temple. Two different shape have been produced by Professor Amar, the "konos" shape, as depicted on ancient Chashmonean coins, (from the era of the Maccabis), and the shape known as "tava prutza," the shape of an inverted Hebrew letter chet.

Professor Amar's newly baked showbread. On the left, the "chet" shape. On the right, the "konos."

 

Professor Amar: "The show bread recipe was a professional secret zealously guarded by the Garmo family. Historically, there were attempts to break the monopoly. Baking experts fro the Egyptian metropolis of Alexandria were gathered together to solve the mystery, but without success. The secret has been kept until this day."

"Being that the showbread preparation ceased with the destruction of the Holy Temple, no one on our team had any prior experience in the baking or preparation of the dough, the kneading, the mixing, the amount of water required or the duration of the baking itself. A scientific paper, detailing the process and the background research will be made public soon."

This article was translated from the original Hebrew, as written by Alex Doron for the NRG website, adapted and elaborated upon.

 

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