Total Purity by Jerry Karp


In this week’s Parsha, the Torah discusses the many parts of the Mishkan.  One of the more mysterious objects contained therein was the Shulchan, the table that held the Lechem Hapanim.  It is very difficult to understand the need for the Shulchan.  After all, the Lechem Hapanim was not for Hashem.  What was the reason for the Shulchan and the Lechem Hapanim?  Ramban explains that Hashem wanted something upon which to continually bestow His blessing.  God bestowed His blessing upon the Lechem Hapanim, which were always in place on the Shulchan.

Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch explains that there is a deeper meaning to the Shulchan.  The Shulchan always held לבונה, frankincense, and the twelve loaves of the Lechem Hapanim.  The bread clearly represents nourishment and the לבונה represents one’s satisfaction in something, as one is pleased by the good smell of the לבונה.  Therefore, Rav Hirsch says, the Shulchan is meant to represent material benefit, as one receives from food or pleasant smells.  The Shulchan depicts that which allows people to live comfortably.  For this reason, the Shulchan was made of wood.  Wood comes from trees, which are growing, developing, living things. 

Additionally, continues Rav Hirsch, the זר, the gold crown connected to the rim of the table (called the מסגרת), also has an important meaning.  The Gemara in Menachot (96a) tries to explain what purpose the מסגרת served.  One explanation is that it served to hold the legs of the Shulchan together.  Rav Hirsch explains that since the זר was made of gold, it represents purity.  Rav Hirsch says that before any material growth can take place in a person’s life, the person must already be “pure.”  Material growth must be based on holiness and purity, just like the pure זר holds up the Shulchan.  Rav Hirsch shows us that to make our actions effective, they must be done with total purity.

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