1.

One of the essential vessels in the MishkanTabernacle — and later in the Beit Hamikdash was the Shulchan — table. On it were placed twelve loaves of bread, popularly known as lechem hapanim — “show bread.” They were baked fresh on Friday, and every Shabbat the old loaves on the table were removed and replaced by the new set of loaves.

It is commonly accepted that fresh bread means bread baked today. Once it becomes a day old, it is sold at a reduced price, and if it didn’t sell within the second day, it is discarded since it is likely to be stale or even moldy.

Our Sages tell us that these loaves which were distributed among the Kohanim nine days after their baking were miraculously as fresh and warm as when they were placed on the table (Chagigah 26b).

Every Chatan and Kallah go through various stages of love, admiration and infatuation for each other. Except for what some term as “love at first sight,” normally the relationship becomes warmer and warmer as the time of courting progresses, and it peaks at the wedding under the Chuppah. Afterward, usually the excitement wanes, and unfortunately, in a large number of marriages in modern day society, the relationship becomes ice cold and finally ends altogether.

My berachah to you, dear Chatan and Kallah, is that your relationship should resemble the quality of lechem hapanim. May the happiness, admiration and love that you now have for each other remain fresh and accompany you all the days of your married life.

So that you will merit this berachah it is necessary for me to tell you a story. A chassid of the Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, once wrote a letter to his son-in-law and successor, the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Schneerson. In it he bemoaned that fact that he had received a berachah from his father-in-law — and to his dismay it was not realized.

The Rebbe responded, a berachah is like rain. For a good harvest, rain is a dire necessity, but rain alone without an investment of effort on the part of the farmer to plow and seed the field will yield naught.

To merit this berachah of achieving the lechem hapanim quality, you must apply in practice the message of the lechem hapanim.

According to the Gemara these breads were not the loaves we are accustomed to. They were “U”-shaped (like a square “U” — an open box with two sides removed).

What is the significance of bread shaped in this way?

Why did Hashem instruct that these strange-looking loaves be placed on the Shulchan — table?

The table represents the mitzvah of hospitality and feeding the needy. Unfortunately, often when a person is blessed and sated, he is insensitive to the needs of others. His success and wealth prevent him from “seeing” the needs of the poor. The Torah therefore prescribes that the bread on the table be “U”-shaped. While a normal loaf of bread is a solid, opaque mass, one can look through the hollow in the lechem hapanim loaf. This suggests that one’s bread, i.e. one’s success, should not block one’s vision.

This not only applies in the area of hospitality and extending aid to those in need, but also relates to a husband and wife’s sitting at the table and communicating.

Never should a person allow anything to block his or her vision of his or her spouse. There should be an open avenue of communication between the two, and this is the ingredient that assures a healthy and wholesome marriage. When this ingredient is present, the marriage has the lechem hapanim quality. To the very last day it retains the warmth, vigor, love and mutual appreciation as on the first day the couple started out in their married life.


2.

It is customary to seek for something recorded in the weekly reading and develop from it a message to a Chatan and Kallah. This week the task is facilitated since the entire parshah contains a message to a young couple starting out in life.

The parshah discusses the building of the Mishkan. Hashem instructed Moshe to convey to K’lal Yisrael that “They shall make Me a Sanctuary so that veshachanti betocham — I may dwell among them. In conformance with all that I show you the form of the Tabernacle and the form of its vessels so shall you do” (25:9,10) [“in future generations” — Rashi].

Our Rabbis call to our attention a grammatical inconsistency. The command “They shall make for Me a Sanctuary” refers to the Mishkan, since there was only one Mishkan — Tabernacle — it should have concluded “veshachanti betocho — “I may dwell in it”? Why does it say “betocham “among them”? Hence, they explain that with “betocham” Hashem meant among each and every one of them. That is, in addition to the general Mishkan, every Jew should make himself and his home a holy place in which Hashem would be comfortable. As a newly-wed couple this is your primary task.

When a person prepares to furnish a home, he enlists the services of an interior decorator. This professional plans the décor in the home and charges a fee. The Torah contains a list of the ideal furnishings for a Jewish home. The information is free of charge, but it is up to us to bring the items into the home and put each one in its appropriate place.

A Jewish home must have an Aron — Ark, a Menorah — candelabra, a Shulchan — Table, and a Mizbeiach — Altar.

The Aron represents Torah. It contained the Luchos — the Tablets with the Ten Commandments — and it also contained a Torah scroll (or the Torah scroll was alongside it — see Bava Batra 14a). First and foremost, a Jewish home must be permeated with the teaching, guidelines and spirit of Torah. In addition, Torah should, of course, actually be studied in the house and there should also be a prominent display of Torah books.

The Menorah is the candelabra with its luminous candles. It is analogous to mitzvot, as King Shlomo said, “For a candle is a mitzvah” (Proverbs 6:23). The home should be a place where mitzvot are performed faithfully and meticulously.

The table represents hospitality. We should follow in the footsteps of our forefather Avraham, who was illustrious in the trait of hospitality. The table also represents kashrut of food, and we must strive that the kashrut in the home be of the highest standards. Everyone should be comfortable to eat at the table without any doubts or hesitations.

(Commentaries explain that in the Biblical admonitions there are hidden blessings. Now, how could the curse “You shall eat the flesh of your sons and that of your daughters” (Vayikra 26:29) be a blessing? Someone wisely answered, in many instances, unfortunately, the parents are unable to eat “besar beneichem” — unable to eat foods at the home of their children due to reasons of kashrut.)

Last but not least, the Mizbei’ach — Altar — has a prominent place. On the Mizbei’ach sacrifices were offered. Sacrifices are a very important ingredient and a source of blessing. The husband must learn to sometimes make sacrifices for his wife and likewise the wife must at times make sacrifices for the husband. The Chatan and Kallah are being told, “Forego your selfishness and egotism and go out of your way to please one another.” Likewise, later on in life, parents also make sacrifices for the benefit of the children. At times it may entail giving up personal pleasure to spend time with children or the pursuit of amenities to pay tuition for Torah education.

The Biblical term for sacrifice is “korban.” It is from the root word “karov,” which literally means coming closer. Through the korban the Jew became closer to Hashem in the time of the Holy Temple. Similarly, you may be assured that there will be closeness between husband and wife, parents and children when each one learns to make sacrifices for the other.

My dear Chatan and Kallah, through bringing these four “vessels” into your home, you are creating a miniature Sanctuary and Hashem will indeed be eager to dwell together with you.


3.

The purpose of marriage is to build a home. In fact one of the popular blessings extended to a Chatan and Kallah is that “they merit to build a binyan adei ad — a true and everlasting home in Israel.” Often I wonder when did every young couple master the arts of architecture, engineering, and construction?

Our Sages have told us “Ma’asei avot siman l’banim” — “The stories related to us about our forefathers serve as a sign for the children.” This means that Torah is not merely a compilation of fascinating stories, but as the Zohar says, the word “Torah” stems from the word “hora’ah” — guidance and teaching.

In this week’s parshah we learn of the construction of the Mishkan — Tabernacle. The walls were made of shitim (cedar) wood. Rashi (25:5) asks “From where did they have shitim wood in the wilderness? The answer to this question was given by Rabbi Tanchuma in his Midrash: ‘Our forefather Yaakov foresaw through Divine inspiration that the Jews were destined to build a Mishkan in the wilderness. He therefore bought shitim trees with him when he descended to Egypt and planted them there, and he commanded his sons to take them with them when they would depart from Egypt.’”

This is really amazing! 210 years passed from the time Yaakov arrived in Egypt until the departure of the Jewish people. Then they shlepped this timber with them, even crossing the sea with it. Couldn’t old Yaakov think of some better advice to give his children?

In fact the Gemara (Yoma 75a) says that although in the wilderness the Jews lived on manna from heaven, at times they would purchase items from tagrei akum — gentile peddlers. If so, why was it necessary for Yaakov to plant trees and instruct his children to carry them out of Egypt — couldn’t they have arranged with the peddler to bring them lumber to purchase?

Moreover, the Gemara (ibid.) explains the meaning of the pasuk (Shemot 36:3) “They continued to bring free-will gifts morning after morning” that precious stones and pearls came down together with the manna, and thus every morning they received many of the new materials needed for the construction of the Mishkan. If so, instead of Yaakov bringing timber to Egypt and subsequently the Jews caring for it for over two hundred years, why couldn’t these also descend miraculously?

In every generation the popular dream and goal of young people is to construct their own new homes. Often, the younger generation becomes accustomed to modern ideas and ideals. To demonstrate their so-called progress, they bring their modern ideas and ideals into their homes and in so doing may detach themselves from the ways of Torah.

By telling us of the antique boards prepared by Yaakov, the Torah teaches us that a true Jewish home should reflect the “styles,” i.e. the tradition and heritage of our forefathers. A Torah-observant young couple should strive to build their home to emulate the spirit that prevailed in the home of our ancestors. Such a home is a miniature Sanctuary in which Hashem desires to dwell.

My dear Chatan and Kallah, we wish you much success in building a home in Israel on the age-old foundations of Torah and Israel. May your marriage and home be kedat Moshe v’Yisrael — in accordance with the laws conveyed by Moshe and in the spirit of the authentic path of Israel.