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Friday, February 24, 2012

Teruma, Shemos 25:23. The Shulchan, the Show-bread Table. ועשית שלחן

The Ramban here, in 25:24, talks briefly about the Shulchan.  He says:

וכן הדבר, שזה סוד השולחן, כי ברכת השם מעת היות העולם לא נברא יש מאין, אבל עולם כמנהגו נוהג, דכתיב (בראשית א לא): וירא אלוהים את כל אשר עשה והנה טוב מאד. אבל כאשר יהיה שם שרש דבר תחול עליו הברכה ותוסיף בו, כאשר אמר אלישע הגידי לי מה יש לך בבית (מ"ב ד ב), וחלה הברכה על אסוך שמן ומלאה כל הכלים, ובאליהו כד הקמח לא כלתה וצפחת השמן לא חסר (מ"א יז טז). וכן השולחן בלחם הפנים, בו תחול הברכה, וממנו יבא השובע לכל ישראל. ולכך אמרו כל כוהן שמגיעו כפול אוכל ושבע (יומא לט א):

Free translation:  This is the essence of the matter, the secret of the Shulchan.  From the time Hashem created the world, nothing comes ex nihilo.  The world functions within the laws of nature, as it says....  But when there is a root object, blessing can befall it and increase it....as we find in the case of Elisha and the jug of oil... and Eliahu and the keg of flour.    So, too, the bread on the Shulchan is the focus of the blessing, and from it comes sustenance to the entire nation.

The Chinuch says this is true for many other things as well.  See there Mitzvas Asei 97, where he brings the Gemora in Sukkah about Nisuch Hamayim and the Omer and other things.  His important statement is the anything that is used in the service of the Ribono Shel Olam becomes a conduit for bracha; by attaining and embodying the spiritual quality of the mitzvah that was done with it it serves as a focus and source of bracha.


The lesson is that, as the Chinuch and the Ramban say, that doing the retzon Hashem with an object brings bracha on it and other like objects.  This can also be used to explain the Gemara with Nechunya chofer boros and his son.  It also explains why some people love to get shirayim from a Tzadik’s table.

Right after seeing this, I learned the Gemora in Megilla 27b, where it says that R’ Zakai was asked what zchus gave him arichus yamim, and he answered that, among other things, he was tremendously diligent to make kiddush Friday night on wine and not bread or something else.  It then says that his elderly mother also sacrificed to help him keep his chumra.  It then says that when his mother died, she left him 300 barrels of wine, and when R’ Zakkai died, he left 3,000 barrels.  This is a perfect example of bracha coming to a specific thing through a kiyum retzon Hashem in similar objects.  I would note, though, that sometimes the bracha comes and the person doesn't get it because he wasn't mispallel, and sometimes the bracha comes to to others in his generation, or to  his own descendants many years later.


By the way, it's more interesting to know that the Ramban is actually part of a discussion among the Rishonim.


The Rambam in Moreh, 3:45, says he finds the idea of the Shulchan enigmatic.  He says, 
...אבל השולחן והיות עליו הלחם תמיד, לא אדע בו סיבה ואיני יודע לאיזה דבר אייחס אותו עד היום.

The Abrabanel, no doubt taking his cue from the Rambam, writes that he finds the concept of the Shulchan to be puzzling.  He says, 
מה היה הצורך במצוה הזאת לשים חלות על השולחן ההוא, ולבונה בתוכם, ושלא יאכל אדם מהם כל השבוע עד היום השביעי. האם היה זה לצורך גבוה, והנה הלחם לא היה נאכל שמה ולא היה יתברך צריך אותו כי הוא הנותן לחם לכל בשר.
Rashi here, DH זר זהב סביב, says, 
סימן לכתר מלכות, שהשולחן שם עושר וגדולה, כמו שאומרים שולחן מלכים.
so you can see that the Ramban is addressing this question with his own special insight.

This approach of the Ramban is very nicely expanded in Rabbeinu Bachaye.  Rabbeinu Bachaye says:

וע״ד הפשט הוצרך השלחן בבית  ה׳ בלחם אשר עליו להיות שורש דבר שתחול הברכה בו והלחם אשר עליו היה נאכל לכהנים משרתי המקדש והיה מספיק לרבים מהם מעט  ממנו. וכענין שאמרו רז׳׳ל כל כהן שהיה מגיעו כפול היה שבע. ועל כן נקרא שלחן שהקב״ה שולח ברכתו בלחם שעליו ומשם הברכה משתלח בכל המזונות ויבא שובע לכל העולם, והברכה הזו היתה יש מיש כמעשה הנביאים  וברכתם שהיתה יש מיש כ׳ אין להם כח לעשות יש מאין, והעד  לזה אלישע  בענין (מ ' ב  ד)  אסוך שמן .גם אליהו בענין (מ״א יז) כד הקמח. אבל בריאה יש מאין אין הענין מסור ביד ב״ו ולא מצאנו זה אחר הבריאה כי אם בבריאה עולם במעשה ה׳ כי נורא הוא
וע״ד  המדרש ועשית שלחן עצי שטים שלום טובה ישועה מחילה.
וכן מצינו בארון ובמזבח כי כל הטובות האלה נכללות בה ובאות בסבתם גם בסבת השלחן כי הוא מזבח כפרה לאדם והלחם שעל השלחן הוא  כקרבן על גבי המזבח כשאדם טוב עין מושיב ומאכיל שם העניים והוא שדרשו רזיל  והמזבח ען  שלש אמות וגו׳ (יחזקאל  מא) וידבר אלי זה  השלחן אשר לפני ה'.  פתח במזבח וסיים בשלחן?  אלא בזמן שבהמ״ק קיים אדם מתכפר על ידי המזבח  עכשיו שאין בהמ״ק קייס אדם מתכפר ע״י השלחן: 
ומנהג חסידים שבצרפת שעושים משלחנם ארון לקבורה, להורות כי האדם לא ישא מאומה  בידו ולא ילונו  בעמלו כי אם הצדקה שעשה  בחייו והטובה שהוא  מיטיב  על שלחנו .  ולכך אמרו רז״ל המאריך על  שלחנו מאריכין לו ימיו ושנותיו

When the Beis Hamikdash stood, all bracha flowed through the keilim, such as wisdom through the lamps of the Menora, sustenance through the bread on the Shulchan, and forgiveness for sin through the Korbanos on the Mizbei'ach.  Now that there is no Beis Hamikdash, the table in a man's home serves as the conduit through which blessings flow into your home.  Why the table?  Because when you invite the lonely and the poor to eat with you, you are doing the work of the Shulchan and the Lechem Hapanim.  When you say Divrei Torah at the table, you are recreating the Menora.  When you eat for Oneg Shabbos and Simchas Yomtov, and you refrain from eating that which is assur or inappropriate, it is as if you are bringing Korbanos on the Mizbei'ach.  This is a fact, and it should be emphasized to every young couple. It is the Shabbos table that is the focus and the locus of Kedusha in a Jewish home, and it through that table that all blessings flow min hashamayim.  It behooves us to consciously make an effort to ensure that our table is worthy of the flow of Brachos. 

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

but it seems that "sustenance to the entire nation" comes quite from "within the laws of nature" in devarim 11:14, that Divine intervention will register only as restraint, 11:17, rather than as miraculous blessing/increase*
(Eliahu's flour, Elisha's oil);
seed & soil are adequate natural conduits for a healthy harvest

*excepting the shemitah year
phenomena

Barzilai said...

I don't know how עולם כמנהגו נוהג conforms with תחול עליו הברכה ותוסיף בו, but the Ramban certainly doesn't mean what you're saying. I know that rationalists try to eliminate Hashem's involvement in our lives, but that is totally inconsistent with the Ramban here and his explicit opinions in numerous other places. Why would you want to read your philosophy into the Ramban? Do you think the Ramban would thank you for relieving him of the stigma of having believed in divine intervention on a daily basis, because maybe the Rambam in some places implies to the contrary?

Have a good Shabbos.

Anonymous said...

that was no misinterpretation nor
realignment of the Ramban, but a
question on his view; to put it in
terms that explicitly INclude
"daily" hashgacha--
come Succos, Hashem judges the
land of Israel for rain; this
judgement includes every seed implanted there, & every seed that
will before long be implanted
(these seeds are the very objects
which will receive any blessing*
[what need is there for Hashem to bless the lechem hapanim such that
they are continually
replaced/replenished by growth from the fields, when the
seeds, themselves receptive to
direct blessing bestowed for Israel's good behavior, will transform into plants, til finally priests proclaim 'boruch ata Hashem... hamotzi lechem min ha'aretz' {not 'min halechem', nor 'min hashulchan'} over the
showbread?]); Hashem then decides
whether to release the early rains
in full, or to withhold some measure thereof-- might He not, with Eyes on the land "tamid" throughout the year (devarim 11:12), at any given moment during the year modify His judgement? whether He withhold rains which til that time He meant should fall, or He release rains which til that time He meant to deny, or He go with the current flow, or He add pre- or post-season rains, Hashem is daily close to bnei Yisrael, scrutinizing behavior for better or for worse (& adjusting His hashgacha, His rain-blessing/s upon the seed-growths, accordingly)

*indeed a seed can be most powerfully blessed to dramatically
transmit blessing: apparently,
the world revolves around the effects of a single sperm that
seeded Sarah (bereishis 22:18!)

Could the lechem hapanim, a day 6
day 7 operation, have specifically channelled Hashem's
triple-blessing of the harvest in
year 6 of the shemitah cycle,
the continuous showbreads of each
week having channelled an increment
of bracha into eretz Yisrael, the
earth continually acting as an accumulator of those increments
until, after so many years, critical mass is reached and vavavavoom!!!?
the 6 loaves* of one stack transmit
enough bracha during the preparatory years for a doubling of
the 6th year's harvest, while the
6 loaves* of the second stack
transmit enough for a tripling of
the 6th year's harvest, each increase independent of the rain
that prompts the usual (though
adjustible!) underlying harvest of the 6th year (hence each increase
exceedingly 'mystical'), though
dependent on that rain for a determination of the size of the triple harvest (or, as Rashi says
in vayikra 25:19, no drought will there be, implying that rains are
guaranteed for that year [be there
continuous lechem hapanim!], & that
the huge harvest is maybe of one
measure rather than 1x3)...

*there be 6 & 6 names inscribed in the shoham stones (each stone set in a gold rim like the shulchan)-- the high priest physically supports those 2 stones
on his shoulders, while the 12 loaves, stacked 6 & 6, physically
support the high priest (or whomever among the priests eats of the showbreads)!