In this coming week’s Torah Portion, Parshas Emor, you have the concept of the Lechem HaPanim, the breads on constant display in the Temple which were placed on a special Shulchan/table of gold. There were two sides to this table and each side held six loaves, for a total of twelve loaves which signified the Jewish people. Incidentally, that is why there is a custom to braid the Challah with six strands. Since you use two Challos for Lechem Mishna, altogether there are twelve strands of braiding. This indicates the “braiding” of our nation, twelve distinct tribes pooled together.
Back to the Lechem Hapanim. The loaves were formed so each one looked like it was holding up the one on top of it. Yet, they were not really doing so alone, for inserted on the Shulchan were special support rods ensuring the weight of the upper loaf did not crush or crumble the bottom layers. The lesson for us is that each Jew should try to support and help others, but be careful that the extent that we do so does not make ourselves crumble.
That is one explanation of the rods, placed there to show us we must give to and support others; but also have an obligation to keep ourselves okay, too. That is why in the laws of charity, one is not allowed to give more than a set amount. You are not allowed to impoverish yourself for others. (For me, that is still a learning curve, but I’ll get there someday.)
There was a heart-rending article on the Aish website some time ago, the lament of someone feeling quite like a hamster on the little wheel in the cage, spinning, spinning, toward nowhere. Trying to make ends meet and never “making it” any more than that. The author claims it is a road to humility.
Yet, I think at this point, it is time to learn another message of those support rods on the Shulchan. And to do so, I will explain a parable of the Maggid of Dubno. He tells the tale of a poor peddler who was walking from one town to the other, his back bent under the heavy weight of his very full sack. A richer citizen riding along in a carriage spotted the poor, overburdened peddler. Feeling sorry for his fellow man, the rich guy stopped his carriage and said, “We’re going the same way. C’mon, hop on board and I’ll take you to the next city.” The peddler was delighted. He got into the carriage, profusely thanking the rich man. A few miles into the ride, the rich man noticed the peddler was sweating away, his arm muscles bulging, his back still bent under the pack. It seemed like the peddler was still carrying the full weight of the bag. Said the rich man, “My friend, why don’t you take a break and put your bag down on the floor of the carriage?” Replied the peddler, “Oh, but kind sir, you were so nice to take me and add my weight to your horses’ burden, I just feel bad adding the weight of my bag to it, too.” “FOOL,” exclaimed the rich man, “don’t you realize the horses are already carrying the weight of both. You holding the bag on your back doesn’t make it lighter for the horses. It just makes it more strenuous for you.” Summed up the Maggid of Dubno, this is the wisdom King David was trying to impart to us when he sang, “Shfoch Yehavcha Al Hashem V’Hu Yechalkileka.” “Throw on G-d your burden and He will sustain you.” [Tehillim/Psalms 55:23]
That is the little rods of the Shulchan. The bread signifies our “parnassah”/livelihood. We must always remember who carries that burden…and, my friend, it isn’t us. After all, G-d is carrying us in life – don’t you think He is carrying our baggage, too? He’ll get us to where we need to get to, never fear, without our having to lug the heavy burdens. It doesn’t make our burdens any lighter to worry about it non-stop, straining our emotional muscles all day until their snapping point. Just sit back, throw down your worries, and enjoy the ride.
Someone has put together a site where he posts the parables of the Maggid of Dubnow for each Torah portion which can be acccessed here: http://parsha-story.blogspot.com/ Another site where you can find many of the Maggid’s tales is http://revach.net
And, for a full book of Emunah insight, do yourself a favor and get the amazing Garden of Emunah by Rabbi Arush, translated by Rabbi Brody.