My Mother Baked the Whole World For Me - Parshat Emor
בינה בפייסבוק בינה באינסטגרם צרו קשר עם בינה במייל

My Mother Baked the Whole World For Me – Parshat Emor

My Mother Baked the Whole World For Me – Parshat Emor

Ran Oron

My parents’ house in Omer. Every Shabbat evening my grandmother would light Shabbat candles on the tea cart that stood between the kitchen and the dining room. Perfumed. Her white hair combed back. She brought her palms together, covered her face. Closed her eyes and blessed. The house became silent. Listened.

Parashat Emor describes for the first time in the Torah the calendar of Jewish holidays. First and anchoring the calendar is the Shabbat. The rest of the holidays appear after: Passover, the Counting of the Omer, Shavuot, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Sukkot. After stating the laws of Shabbat and the holidays, the “parasha” describes the eternal light, the commandment of lighting Shabbat candles, and the shew bread.

The shew bread was the bread of the priests first in the Tabernacle and then in the Temple. The bread was made up of twelve challahs which were baked in pairs. The challahs were placed on the table in the Tabernacle in two orders, six challahs in each order. Golden reeds were placed between the challahs “to let the spirit pass between them”. Poles supported it around. Miraculously, the shew bread stayed fresh and warm for a whole week. Every Shabbat the bread was given as an offering to the priests and new bread was put in the place of the offered one. The shew bread, in Hebrew lechem hapanim, got its name from the Hebrew word “panim” which means both a face and inside. It is called “lechem hapanim” because of its many sides – “faces” – and because it was placed on a golden table in the heart of the Tabernacle. “The table of the shew bread” tells the Zohar book “is located inside the Tabernacle. On this table rests the supreme blessing, and from it come all the blessings and food for the whole world.”

Rabbi Hanina described the shape of the shew bread as “a broken box”, and Rabbi Yochanan believed that it was “like a dancing ship”. Rashi interpreted the “broken box” as an box without a cover and the “dancing ship” as a rocking boat whose narrow base, one which is in the water, widens as it rises. The shew bread was drawn by Rashi in the shape of the letter V. His drawing reminded me of my grandmother’s hands as she was blessing.

Her hands, the wonder of the ever-fresh bread, its location in the heart of the Tabernacle, the Shabbat offering for the priests and its juxtaposition in the verse to the eternal light carried me to the Shabbat evening. To the candles, to the challahs and the salt. To the blessing.

 The woman, writes Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz in his book “The Thirteen Petalled Rose” is the “priestess” who can transform the house into a temple on Shabbat evening. The blessing, the candles, the table, the challah and the salt are the tools given in her hand to transform the house into a holy place. Thanks to her, the household utensils that take part and feed the family on a daily basis turn on Shabbat evening into spiritual tools awarding the house with moments of holiness. At those moments, the Shekinah enters home and resides inside.

The poet, Yehuda Amichai writes about the woman’s place; “My mother baked the whole world for me with sweet cakes,” he recalls. The shew bread, the symbol of abundance in the Tabernacle, is the woman’s blessing of abundance, happiness and wealth for the members of the household for the coming week. “And the longings are closed in me like air bubbles in a loaf of bread,” he reveals. The secret of the ever-fresh and always warm bread are the words of the heart of the woman asking for grace and blessing for her home and world. The sweetness of the cakes is the taste of her love.

Avraham Halfi describes the amazing journey of the shew bread over thousands of years from the heart of the Tabernacle to the center of every house in Israel in his poem “The Hour of Good Moon”. “The moon lays like a half a loaf of bread” he writes, as he takes the bread out of the Tabernacle, offering it to the world; “The skies are prepared for the meal and the eve./ The soul of the world blesses peace/ and to the starlight/ offers all she can give.” Then, having made the shew bread availble to the world, he generously indraduces it to all of us, to every home, connecting us as a nation; “When all human beings prepre to be calm/ in their poor evening the bread mircles shed./ As they bless all they have, they will never forget/ the comforting light of the bread.”

Dusk. The closed eyes see inside. The hands, almost touching, feeling the face. The candlelight flickers at the heart of the house. Serenity. Hope. The world is listening

Written by Ran Oron

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