|Lechem Mishneh: The Voice of Torah: Becoming Trusters|
|Written by Rabbi Chaim Goldberger|
Lechem Mishneh – the two loaves of challah over which we commence each of our three Shabbat meals – seems a very unlikely choice to be either the symbol of Shabbat or the symbol of the manna it purports to represent.
For one thing, the Hebrew root of the word “challah” is “chol”, which means “mundane” or “weekday”. One can hardly imagine a more inapt moniker for a symbol of the holy Sabbath.
Furthermore, a double portion of Friday’s manna would not have sufficed for Shabbat. Friday’s portion was enough to cover two meals; Shabbat requires three. (And you cannot contend that Friday’s second half was consumed at the Friday night Shabbat meal, for then it becomes completely inaccurate to call the “Shabbat” portion of manna a doubling of Friday’s.)
Manna is ill represented by challah for another reason. Manna is perfect food. Presented warm and ready to eat, manna required no effort on the part of man except to collect it and eat it. Bread could not be more opposite!
By the sweat of your brow shall you eat bread. [Bereshit 3:19]
Bread represents all the toil and effort demanded of our accursed, post-Eden world – sowing, watering, reaping, threshing, winnowing, grinding, kneading, and baking are all prerequisites to the consumption of the hard-earned finished product. Indeed, the menu of PROHIBITED Shabbat activity is tied to this onerous workload (the first 11 of the 39 Melachot Shabbat are those actions that go into the baking of bread), again leaving bread as a poor symbol for Shabbat, as well as for manna.
Indeed, we can ask another question. Supposedly, the people needed two measures of manna on Friday because none would fall on Shabbat. Why not? Rain falls on Shabbat, why can’t manna? In fact, God withholds none of the ongoing activities of Creation on the Sabbath day – the sun rises, the wind blows, plants grow. Why is the supplying of manna, alone among all other divine activities, suspended on Shabbat?
One last curiosity: Why are the two Shabbat loaves referred to as “Lechem Mishneh” – “Double Breads”? On Shavuot, we bring an offering of two loaves of bread to the Altar. They are called, simply, the Two Breads. Why for Shabbat are they called “double”? True, the term is derived from the verse (Shemot 16:5) which calls the second portion of Friday’s manna “double”, but what is the Torah’s reason for doing that?
Beginning with the last question, we might ask: What is the difference between two of something and double?
A reference to “two” items suggests a quantity – it implies no relationship between the two. Something that is “double” is a doubling of something else, implying some kind of connection between them.
By calling the second portion of manna a doubling of the first, it suggests that its relevance is connected not to Shabbat at all, but to Erev Shabbat – Friday. That second portion is needed not because of what we must EAT ON SHABBAT, but because of what we must PREPARE ON EREV SHABBAT.
But are they not one and the same? Not at all! The Talmud tells us:
Mi she’tarach b’erev Shabbat yochal b’Shabbat.
He who prepares on Erev Shabbat will eat on Shabbat.
[Avodah Zarah 3a]
It does not say “What he prepares on Erev Shabbat”, but rather, “He who prepares on Erev Shabbat”. It is in the merit of the fact that we work hard to prepare on Erev Shabbat that we are enabled to eat on Shabbat. WHAT we eat on Shabbat remains God’s gift to us, and it is manna no less than the manna of any other day, different only in that it suffices for three meals instead of two. It even falls on Shabbat – it just falls differently than it does on weekdays:
Moshe said, “Eat it today for today is Shabbat to God. Today you will not find it in the field.” [Shemot 16:25]
IN THE FIELD you will not find today’s portion; Shabbat’s portion you will find in your homes. Manna, like rain and dew, does fall to us on Shabbat, just in our homes and not in the field. The food we find in our cholent pots Shabbos morning is the holy day’s manna from heaven. It has nothing to do with what happened on Friday. So why do we receive double manna on Friday? Friday’s portion is given to us so that by making extra preparations on Friday, we get to feel a personal connection to what is otherwise just a Divine sabbatical:
By the seventh day, God completed the work He had done, and He abstained on the seventh day from all the work that He had done. God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it. [Bereshit 2:2-3]
Compare that to the Shabbat of the Ten Commandments:
Remember the Sabbath day to sanctify it.
Sanctify it? Us? How are we supposed to do that?
Six days shall you work… [Shemot 20:8-9]
It is the pre-Shabbat preparatory work we put in all week – and especially the extra work we do on Erev Shabbat – that gives US the ability to sanctify the day right alongside God, whose own sanctification of the day reaches back to the very first Shabbat.
It now becomes clear that challah is the perfect symbol for both Shabbat and the manna. CHALLAH symbolizes that aspect of Shabbat’s sanctity that WE contribute – an aspect that has little to do with Shabbat’s intrinsic holiness and everything to do with the way we anticipate the Shabbat during the days of CHOL.
And for the same reason, challah perfectly represents the manna. The manna was given as a response to an agitation for more control over our destiny:
We would rather have died by the Hand of God in the land of Egypt than here in the Wilderness by famine. [Shemot 16:3]
The last time we professed such an agitation was when we disobeyed in the Garden of Eden. Back then, God responded by giving us what we asked for – a new world order in which we would first toil and labor before finally sitting down to enjoy the gift of the Motzi Lechem Min Ha’aretz (echoing the bracha over challah). So too in the parsha, God responded by giving us what we asked for – a work week full of gathering, collecting, baking, and cooking all leading up to the day on which we can finally sit down, no further work to be done, and right at our own set tables thoroughly enjoy the gift of the Motzi Lechem Min HaShamayim (the bracha over manna).
To take this thought one step deeper, there is one other spiritual phenomenon in which the effort and the benefit co-exist but on separate tracks – the mitzvah of Bitachon (Trust). In the theory of Bitachon, God commits Himself to giving us all our needs without any effort from us whatsoever. But after we agitate for more of a sense of control in the supplying of our needs, God allows us to perform hishtadlus (effort) by getting a job or running a business. Nevertheless, the benefit still arrives to us from His hand – our effort is nothing more than the release catalyst. The hishtadlus part of Bitachon and the manna of Shabbat express the identical idea: We can work to make it look and feel like it’s us, but we must acknowledge that in reality it is all really Him.
Looking at it this way, eating Lechem Mishneh on Shabbat is actually a powerful weekly lesson in the great Mitzvah of trusting God.