Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Emor: from rags to riches

Parshat Emor

The Torah is going through various details of the various holidays. It discusses the Omer offerings and upon arriving at the end of the Omer count (i.e. Shavuos), one has to bring a sacrifice called "shtei ha'lechem" - the two loaves. In 23:17 the Torah tells us, "מִמּוֹשְׁבֹתֵיכֶם תָּבִיאּוּ לֶחֶם תְּנוּפָה, שְׁתַּיִם שְׁנֵי עֶשְׂרֹנִים--סֹלֶת תִּהְיֶינָה, חָמֵץ תֵּאָפֶינָה: בִּכּוּרִים, לַיהוָה" or in English, "Ye shall bring out of your dwellings two wave-loaves of two tenth parts of an ephah; they shall be of fine flour, they shall be baked with leaven, for first-fruits unto the LORD."

This korban had a very unusual detail that makes it practically unique. It was made from chametz - leaven. It is one of two korbanos that contain leaven (the second is the korban Toda). All other sacrifices, including all the various mincha offerings, including the lechem ha'panim, including all other dough that would be offered in avrious forms in the mikdash, were leaven free. Kosher for Passover. Matza, albeit it thick and soft usually.

What is the significance of this sacrifice, the "Two Loaves" being made from chametz, unlike almost every other korban?

This offering, the שתי הלחם, is brought at the conclusion of the omer. The Omer count began on Pesach and concludes on Shavuos. In a sense, the Omer is the bridge between Pesach and Shavuos.

Pesach is יציאת מצרים - the Exodus from Egypt. Shavuos is מתן תורה - the giving of the Torah. Omer, the bridge between them, is the process of leaving Egypt and working towards מתן תורה. It is the time to prepare for the receiving of the Torah.

On Pesach we ate לחם עוני - poor man's bread, a.k.a. the Bread of Affliction. We eat the matza to remember the days of slavery and oppression. By doing so we recall the process of leaving Egypt and leaving that oppression behind. Shavuos is when we finally hit the target and got the Torah. That is when we ultimately became free and a nation.

To symbolize this we offer the rare sacrifice with חמץ - the opposite of poor man's bread. This is the bread of the free and the wealthy. The un-oppressed. Rich man's bread, if you must. When we get to Shavuos we can finally say the עוני of מצרים is behind us.

We start with poor man's bread, we work towards our freedom and we end with rich man's bread.


Josh M. said...


Neil Harris said...

Great. We also "rise" to accept the Torah and when the Aron is opened! :)

Rafi G said...


Alex said...


Please consider writing news pieces or an op-ed for Jewrusalem: Israeli Uncensored News. We strive to present different views and opinions while rejecting political correctness. Ideally, we try to make the news "smart and funny." Thus, your input is very welcome.


Futzuman said...

Good analysis.

But here's some food for thought, pun intended: on Pesach we go nuts trying to get rid of all possible chametz in our possession. This chametz rises when prepared, symbolizing haughtiness, ga'ava, arrogance, all of which are in contradiction with the divine will.

So, if hametz is so utterly pasul that if even one molecule of it is eaten on Pesach brings upon karet, then why is it allowed, in fact demanded, on Shavuot within stei halechem.

Continuing this line of reasoning, theoretically hametz should have been banned the whole year round.

Would be interested to read your response.

Rafi G said...

chametz is onyl symbolic of gaava. we do not need to to assur food just because of symbolism. We assur chametz on pesach because the Torah says so. The issue of gaava is the symbolism, the lesson we learn from it. It is not the reason for the issur.

But to darshan the symbolism I would say - some measure of gaava is good. the only midda we are supposed to stay away from completely is Kaas - anger. All other middos, the rambam in shmoneh prakim says we need some aspect of. So on Pesach we get rid of chametz and get rid of our gaava. But the rest of the year we realize that we do need some. On Shavuos we received the Torah. Gaava of Torah is good, maybe. We should be proud we are a nation that follows and centers its life around the Torah. Maybe that is the gaava we need.

Futzuman said...

I don't mean to be a nudnik but allow me to "play" a devil's-advocate (G-d forbid) for a minute:

Saying that chametz on Pesach is only symbolic is analogous to saying that Shofar on Rosh-HaShana is only symbolic, mourning on Tisha Be'Av is only symbolic and that eating marror on Pesach is only symbolic, etc..

There really is no ritual symbolism in Judaism: המעשה הוא העיקר, that is every action has an effect (even if we don't feel it, the effect is nonetheless there.) As it says: דע מה למעלה ממך, i.e., "you should know (דע) that what happens in higher realms (מה למעלה) is contingent on you (ממך). So, indeed every small action here in gashmius affects in ruchanius. (Had it only been symbolic it would have meant that there's no cause-and-effect between gashmius and ruchanius.)

So, in the case of avoiding chametz: the fact that we attach this attribute of "arrogance" to the chametz and we avoid it on Pesach, really does mean there's a close connection between chametz גופא and arrogance, not just symbolically. Bottom line, a devil's-advocate (G-d forbid) would say, "chametz IS gaava!"

Good shabbos!

Rafi G said...

I did not say chametz is only symbolic. I said the mussar of learnign to get rid of arrogance from the chametz is really a symbolic limud. I do not know that that is really the reason chametz is assur. specifically to tell us that arrogance should be uprooted. That is a nice mussar lesson, but is that really the reason hashem assured chametz? That is not what the Torah says.
The Torah says we get rid of chametz because when they left mitzrayim they could not wait for the bread to rise. The matza reminds us of mitzrayim and oppression while the chametz reminds us of freedom.
As far as the issur of chametz goes, the only reason we know for sure is the above. Anythign else is mussar and a nice limud.
The issur of chametz stands on its own. Even if you find a different, better way to get rid of arrogance, chametz remains assur.

Shofar is blown not for symbolic reasons. It is blown as a mitzva in the Torah. What is the reason? To remind Hashem of the akeida and arouse His mercy? I think that's the reason, iirc. However, let's talk about some symbolism. We learn from the shofar to be humble and bent over like the shofar. We try to arouse the listener to do teshuva. Sure, those are things we gain from shofar blowing as well, but are they the reason?