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One of the central Temple vessels is the golden Table for the Showbread, which stands within the Sanctuary itself, on the north side. This table is constructed of wood overlain with gold, and the specific instructions for its design are described in Exodus Chapter 25.

The priests are commanded to see to it that 12 loaves of bread are constantly displayed on this table before the presence of G-d, hence the name showbread: "And you shall place showbread on the table before Me at all times" (Ex. 25:30).

"These 12 loaves were baked in pans which gave them a specific form, and when done they rested on golden shelves upon this table. The loaves were replaced every Sabbath with new ones.

It is said that bread is the staff of life, and represents man's physical sustenance. This is certainly so, and it is important that G-d's blessing for goodness and bounty be found in the bread which we partake of... for without His munificent blessing, all of man's efforts would neither satisfy nor satiate. Thus we endeavor to fulfill His will throughout every aspect of our endeavors, and in so doing, we earn His favor and blessing... for each area wherein man fulfills the Holy One's will becomes a channel receiving Heavenly blessing.

This was especially so in the case of the Showbread, and one aspect of its function was indeed to elicit Divine guidance and providence. The sages teach that since these loaves were in essence the vehicle for fulfilling G-d's commandment, and they were used to accomplish His will, special blessing could be found in it, and indeed, the Divine blessing was seen and felt particularly in the context of the Showbread. The Talmud describes that a miracle took place every week: When the priests came to replace the breads with new loaves every Sabbath, they found that those of the previous week remained fresh and hot upon the table, like the moment they were baked. This miracle was seen as a clear confirmation that the Divine Presence indeed rested in this holy place.

In this light we find the sages' comment that when the Holy Temple stood, every facet of human existence was similarly blessed by a corresponding aspect of the Divine service:

  • The produce of the fields were blessed on account of the showbread and the omer offering;
  • The yearly rainfall, on account of the water libations during the Holiday of Sukkot;
  • Clothing kept one warm in the merit of the priestly garments;
  • The economy prospered because of the daily sacrifices.

When the Temple was destroyed, all these benefits were discontinued, as recorded by the prophet Hagai: "You have sown much, and bring in little; you eat, but you are not satiated; you drink; but you are not filled with drink; you clothe yourselves; but no one is warm; and he that earns wages earns them to put them into a bag with holes" (Hagai 1:6).

 

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