‘Bread’ for Greatness: The Process of Partnership by Rabbi Benny Berlin

Bread appears a lot in Parashat Emor. It seems almost to be the pulse and undercurrent of the entire Parasha.

It says about the Kohanim, “They shall be holy to their G-d, and they shall not desecrate their G-d’sName, for they offer up the fire offerings of the Lord, the bread offering of their G-d, so they shall be holy.”

During Pesach, you abstain from eating bread. On Shavuot, you bring the two loaves of bread as the“Shtei Halechem.” Next, the Torah speaks of the Show breads, the lechem hapanim, twelve loaves placed on the Table in the Heichal every Shabbos morning.

So just to recap we have bread in three situations. Bread at the beginning of the Parasha as the offerings of G-d. Again, right after this in the Parashat Hamoedim, which discusses bread in connection to Pesach and Shavuot. And finally, towards the end with the Lechem Hapanim, the Showbread.

What is the symbolism of bread for us?

Bread represents partnership. G-d gives us the raw materials and we do Melacha, creative labor, and form the most quintessential food for man.

Bread is one of the most dynamic processes of change. It is fantastic to witness the domestication of an inedible grain transform itself into the very staple of nourishment. The rudimentary raw material evolves in such a way that the man-made process can be nothing short of a miracle from G-d. This precept is expressed by the blessing on bread, “Hamotzei Lechem Min Ha’aretz,” the whole bread coming forth from the earth, approaching it as if G-d is involved in every step.

Why are the Kohanim called kodesh when they offer the Lechem? Because they are partnering with G-d in creative labor. What is more holy than that!

With this insight, we can now understand a dimension of the heavenly bread that fell from the sky during the forty years in the desert. The Manna was created in full by G-d. It created a paradigm that G-d delivers food to man. In fact, there was a selection of Manna that was in the Beis Hamikdash in memory of this miracle. For forty years, the Jewish people were completely sustained by G-d, by His raw materials, until they entered Eretz Yisrael and began baking their own bread. The Jewish Nation finally began to give back through their own man-made processes. The wild, untamed resources of Divine origin had already been wired into their mindsets. It was understood that G-d was truly their sustainer. The moment had arrived to domesticate, subdue, and develop the raw materials they were given.

This partnership with G-d adds a certain level of comfort in our lives. When we are working hard, trying to put “bread on the table”, we remember that G-d is with us. It is a collaborative effort.

I would like to use the following metaphor to express this point. You are at the airport for a 10:00 AM flight and there is a torrential downpour. As you board the aircraft you look out the condensated window and you see it is rainy and gloomy outside. You can’t tell whether it is night or day. As the airplane takes off,you look out the window and all of a sudden you reach the threshold where you are going through the clouds. All of a sudden you see it’s light outside. You look down and it is dark. But when you are above the clouds there is light.

That’s what it is like to have Hashem in our lives. Even when things seem dark, we know that it is not just our own creative labor that sustains us, but it is G-d who partners with us in that effort. When we adapt this mindset, it is as if we’re above the clouds, outside the grasp of the thunderstorm. When we are close to G-d in that partnership, it adds light and perspective into our lives. That is what bread symbolizes. That is the secret of bread.

Partnership is a two-way street. As much as we invest, so does Hashem. When we act for the sake of heaven in our service of G-d, we imbue holiness into our activities. When we think of G-d while enjoying our food, G-d thinks about us in turn. The Kohanim are kadosh; they are holy because they retain the mindset of partnership. We as well have the ability to tap into that sanctity by consciously acknowledging the toil of man is merely an extension to that of our Creator. By connecting ourselves with the Almighty,we have attained the greatest partner we could ask for. Bread is a constant reminder that we are never alone.