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Parashat Emor (Leviticus 21:1-24:23)

“And you shall add to each stack pure frankincense; this shall be
the memorial portion for the bread, a fire offering to God.” (Leviticus 23:7)

Parashat Emor is called Torat Hakohanim, the Torah of the Priests, because it instructs them in issues of k’dusha, sanctity, and tahara, ritual purity. Emor directs the kohanim to bring twelve loaves of bread to the Temple every Shabbat, and to display them in two stacks of six, as an eternal commitment to God (Lev. 24:4-9). The loaves are a constant reminder: all material abundance comes from God. (Today’s challot, or braided Shabbat loaves, evoke the memory of this ritual, with the “bumps” in the braids multiplying the two challot into twelve.)

The Torah calls these loaves lechem panim, usually translated as show bread (Ex. 25:30). However, lechem panim means face bread, literally. One explanation is the loaves have many faces (or sides; Mishnah Menachot 11:4). Another explanation is the kohanim would eat the loaves at the end of the week before God’s face or presence (apparently the secret recipe kept them loaves moist (Babylonian Talmud Menachot 29a). Targum Yonatan (2nd Century Aramaic translation of the Prophets) reads panim as p’nim, or inside (bifnim in modern Hebrew). Now the name references the bread’s location: inside the mishkan, or Tabernacle, on its north side. This prompts the rabbis to preach, “If a person wants to become rich, he should point his feet to the north when he prays.” (Babylonian Talmud Bava Batra 25a) The display of God’s generosity should inspire humans to do likewise.

Covid-19 is forcing everybody to spend a lot of time bifnim. It is wearing, even as we know it is for our own good. Most of us feel the real presence of a familiar face (versus the Zoom presence) would be just divine.

Zay Gezund/Be Healthy
Gut Shabbos/Shabbat Shalom

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