In honor of Israel’s 75th birthday, Israel365 is excited to launch a new series of essays that will unlock the secrets of the Hebrew Bible!
Excerpted from Rabbi Akiva Gersh’s forthcoming book, 75 Hebrew Words You Need to Understand the Bible (available soon!) these essays illuminate the connection between related Hebrew words, revealing Biblical secrets only accessible through Hebrew.
Enjoy the series – and happy 75th birthday to the State of Israel!
“And God said to Moses, “I will rain down bread for you from the sky, and the people shall go out and gather each day that day’s portion—that I may thus test them, to see whether they will follow My instructions or not.” (Exodus 16:4)
ויאמר יהוה אל משה הנני ממטיר לכם לחם מן השמים ויצא העם ולקטו דבר יום ביומו למען אנסנו הילך בתורתי אם־לא.
“Who gives bread to all flesh, for His steadfast love is eternal.” (Psalms 136:25)
נתן לחם לכל בשר כי לעולם חסדו.
Lechem, the Hebrew word for “bread,” is often used to refer to food and sustenance more broadly, as in the verse from Psalms, “Who gives bread to all flesh, for His steadfast love is eternal (136:25).
In Judaism, bread represents the most complete and highest form of food, worthy of having a unique blessing recited over it: “Blessed are You, God, King of the universe, Who brings forth bread from the earth.” Due to its elevated status, the sages require us to ritually wash and purify our hands before eating bread, and on Shabbat and Jewish holidays, meals must include bread in order to reflect the elevated holiness of the day.
In the Tabernacle, and later in the Temple that stood in Jerusalem, special loaves of bread were baked each week and placed on golden tables opposite the Menorah, the golden candelabrum. These breads were called lechem hapanim, literally “bread of faces”; because the bread was baked in molds, the resulting loaves had two “faces,” or sides. On the Shavuot holiday, a special offering of two loaves of bread were brought to celebrate and bless the harvesting of the new wheat crop.
Milchama, the Hebrew word for “war,” contains the same letters as lechem, for it can often feel like a struggle, or “battle,” to earn one’s bread and make ends meet. For this reason, the miracle of the manna bread that God provided the Israelites for 40 years in the desert was also a test. The people were commanded to only collect the precise amount that they needed for each day and to trust that God would continue to provide lechem for them, day after day.