Sheepish Bread

May 20, 2016 at 9:54 AM , , ,

“…And the kohen shall wave them with the bread of the first-fruits for a wave-offering before g-d, with the two lambs…” – Vayikra 23:20

וְהֵנִיף הַכֹּהֵן אֹתָם עַל לֶחֶם הַבִּכֻּרִים תְּנוּפָה לִפְנֵי ה’ עַל שְׁנֵי כְּבָשִׂים – ויקרא כג, כ

The shtei halechem is a wheat flour offering brought in the Beis Hamikdash on the holiday of Shavuos. Two loaves of bread made from the new crop of wheat, together with two sheep, are “waved” by the kohanim. The sheep are offered as sacrifices, and the loaves eaten by the kohanim. After the offering has been given, wheat from the new crop may be used in all other flour offerings too.

The bread of the shtei halechem is a metaphor for the study of Torah. Just as bread, the main staple of human sustenance, becomes absorbed into the body’s flesh and blood, G-d’s wisdom is absorbed into man’s mind and soul through intensive Torah study and comprehension (see Tanya, chapter 5).

The wheat offering is accompanied by a sheep offering. The offering of the sheep, a naturally weak and submissive animal, along with the bread, symbolizes that our study of the Torah must be permeated with humility and kabbolas ol (complete submission to G-d’s will) and acknowledgment that the Torah’s inherent G-dliness transcends our limited human understanding.

These two elements of Torah study, and the need to combine them, are also hinted at in the two loaves themselves.

_Sheepish Bread
According to the Zohar (vol. 1, p. 260a), the two loaves of bread represent the Written Torah and the Oral Torah. The study of the Oral Torah is primarily an exercise of comprehension: if one reads the Oral Torah without understanding its meaning, he has not fulfilled the mitzvah of Torah study. In contrast, being that many parts of the Written Torah are inherently cryptic, when a person simply reads the words of Written Torah, even if he does not understand what he is reading, he is observing the mitzvah of Torah study. As a result, the divinity of the Torah—and its transcendence of human understanding—is sensed more in the Written Torah than in the Oral Torah.

The symbolic unification of both parts of the Torah in the shtei halechemreminds us that we must infuse our understanding of the Torah’s sound logic, typically found in the Oral Torah, with a submission to the divinity of the Torah, akin to the humility that typically characterizes our reading of the Written Torah’s cryptic words.

—Likutei Sichos, vol. 32, p. 137


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