The Bread of Belief by Jesse Dunietz


The last section of Parshat Emor discusses the Mekallel, the man who cursed the Name of Hashem.  After describing the man’s crime, the instructions from Hashem for punishment, and the execution of that punishment, the section closes with, “Uvnei Yisrael Asu Kaasher Tzivah Hashem Et Moshe,” “And Bnei Yisrael did according to what Hashem commanded Moshe” (24:23).  This seems quite redundant; the Pasuk already described how Bnei Yisrael performed the prescribed punishment of stoning!  What does this Pasuk add to our understanding of the story?

Another question arises from a Midrash about the motivations of the Mekallel.  The Midrash comments that what drove the Mekallel to “go out” (24:10) and curse the Name of Hashem was the previous section about the Lechem HaPanim.  The Torah states that the Kohanim eat the Lechem upon removing it from the Shulchan a full week after it is placed there.  According to the Midrash, the concept that the Kohanim were serving Hashem with cold, stale bread was so upsetting that he was moved to commit his crime.  This, too, seems very strange – how could such a seemingly small issue drive someone to such a severe offense?

Rav Yissochar Frand, quoting the Tolner Rebbe, answers both questions by explaining the Midrash allegorically.  The Mekallel was not upset about bread in the literal sense.  Rather, he was troubled by the symbolism of the bread.  Throughout Tanach and the Midrash, bread symbolizes Hashem’s providing us with Parnassah, sustenance.  The Lechem HaPanim is one manifestation of this symbolism.  Indeed, the Gemara (quoted by the Rambam as practical Halacha) states that because the Lechem HaPanim is the vehicle of Hashem’s sustenance to Bnei Yisrael, the Kohanim who remove the old bread must simultaneously slide the new bread on so that there will not be a break in the “conduit.”  It was this concept of Hashem’s Parnassah, the idea that Hashem is personally and actively involved with providing for His creations, that bothered the Mekallel.  He believed that the bread was cold and stale, i.e. there was no such involved, loving connection with Hashem.  What he failed to recognize was that, as Chazal say, the bread stayed warm and fresh from week to week, i.e. this close relationship does exist.  It was this philosophical error that caused the Mekallel to commit the offense that he did.

Finally, the Pasuk concludes by saying that “Bnei Yisrael did as Hashem commanded.”  Despite the presence of such a strong challenge to the idea Hashem’s influence in the world, Bnei Yisrael remained steadfast in their belief in Hashem.

The Unmovable Kohen by Jesse Nowlin

A Safeguard of Purity by Chaim Strassman