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A Miraculous Visual Treat
“They Lifted It Up To Show…”
(Chagiga 26b)



Among the miracles that continuously occurred in the Beis HaMikdash was that the Lechem Hapanim (showbreads) remained fresh from the time they were baked and placed on the Shulchan until they were removed and distributed to the Kohanim a week later. On the festivals, the Kohanim would lift up the Shulchan with the fresh bread on it, and show it to everyone in the Beis HaMikdash. Thereby they displayed the continuous miracle that occurred.


The Bread is Fresh

According to Tosefos (s.v. Siluko), the Lechem Hapanim remained fresh and soft throughout the week. According to the Ritva (Yoma 21a), they actually remained steaming hot, as if they had just come out of the oven. As a proof, he notes from our sugya that people could look at the bread and tell that it was fresh. Had it only been soft, they could not tell by looking. Rather, we must conclude, that it was steaming hot, and everyone could see the steam rising from it.


A Look into the Heichal

The Radvaz was asked the following question (Teshuvos 6:2178): The Shulchan that the Lechem Hapanim stood on in the Heichal of the Beis HaMikdash – According to Rashi (Yoma 21b) and the Ritva (ibid), the Kohanim displayed the bread during the festivals by simply lifting up the Shulchan. They did not bring the Shulchan out of the Heichal. Since the Israelites were not allowed anywhere near the entrance of the Heichal (see Keilim 1:9), how could they possibly have seen the steam rising from the Lechem Hapanim?

The Shita Mekubetzes (Menachos 27b:6) suggests a novel answer. For this special event, every Jew was allowed to come up to the entrance of the Heichal in order to see the fresh Lechem Hapanim. The Kohanim would not take the Shulchan out of the Heichal, but they would bring it up to the entrance so the Israelites could get a better look.


Replacing the Bread

According to these opinions, the Lechem Hapanim remained in the Heichal, in fulfillment of the verse, “The Lechem Hapanim shall always be before Me” (Shemos 25:30. See Teshuvos Radvaz, ibid; Aruch HaShulchan Ha’Asid, Mishkav U’Moshav 121).

However, in variant versions of Rashi (Yoma, ibid), he writes that the Shulchan was lifted up and taken out of the Heichal for all to see (cited in Mishna L’Melech, Mishkav U’Moshav 11:11; and Oz V’Hadar printing of Yoma). This is also the opinion of the Talmud Yerushalmi in our tractate.

According to this opinion, we can well understand how everyone saw the fresh bread. Yet how did they fulfill the posuk, “The Lechem Hapanim shall always be before Me,” if they took it out of the Heichal? The Chazon Ish (O.C. 129) suggests that although the bread usually must remain in the Heichal, the Torah made an exception during the festivals when they were removed to be shown to the Israelites.


Showbreads Shown on Shabbos

The Radvaz (ibid) suggests another solution to this dilemma. He writes that the Lechem Hapanim were not displayed on each day of the festivals but only on Shabbos of the festivals, when they were replaced. The Kohanim would bring the Shulchan to the entrance of the Heichal, so that all could see the bread being replaced. The bread would then be carried throughout the Beis HaMikdash for all to see up close that it was still fresh. This answer suffices for Pesach and Shavuos, since Shabbos must always occur over the course of Yom Tov or Chol HaMoed. However, Shavuos is only one day in Israel. What did they do when it did not occur on Shabbos? The Radvaz suggests that perhaps they only displayed the fresh bread for Shavuos when Shavuos occurred on Shabbos. Alternatively, perhaps they displayed them on the Shabbos that followed Shavuos, called the Shabbos ‘Nuch Yom Tov’ and joyously translated to simultaneously mean the Shabbos that is still Yom Tov and the Shabbos that is after Yom Tov. The Jews who were gathered in Yerushalayim would linger after Yom Tov in order to see this miracle.


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Rabbi Yaakov Klass is Rav of K’hal Bnei Matisyahu in Flatbush; Torah Editor of The Jewish Press; and Presidium Chairman, Rabbinical Alliance of America/Igud HaRabbonim.