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Beit Midrash Torah Portion and Tanach Emor

The Baking of Kiddush Hashem

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No, the above title is not a typo! Just be patient for a bit!

Among the many items in Emor are Kiddush Hashem & its opposite, Chilul Hashem (Sanctification/Desecration of G-d); & the Lechem HaPanim, the "show-bread" placed upon the table in the Mishkan. Let us combine these two diverse subjects into one special little story.

He once was a baker, who eked out a living in his small village. But now that he was old, his hands could not knead as they once did, & the oven’s fire was too hot for him. And so he turned his job over to a younger man.

He wanted to thank Hashem for his ability to work for so many years, but he was poor, & all he knew how to do was bake. Then one day he read this Parsha about the bread in the Bet HaMikdash, & a joyous idea occurred to him. He baked 12 loaves of Challa, & late one night he climbed through the shul window & placed them in the Aron Kodesh. "This is my offering to G-d!" he exclaimed.

On Shabbat morning, when the shamash opened the Aron to prepare the Torah, he was amazed to see - & smell – 12 fresh Challot! He had no idea where they came from, but he took them & gave them to the poor. When the baker came to shul later, & saw that the loaves were gone, he was ecstatic: "G-d has accepted my offering!" he rejoiced.

This scene repeated itself for weeks, until one day the shamash was cleaning the shul & saw the baker come in and place the Challot in the Aron. He smiled, & said nothing. But unbeknownst to them both, there was another man, a very wealthy man, who was quietly davening in the corner, & he saw all this, too.

The next Shabbat the wealthy man stood up in shul & proudly announced: "I have solved the mystery of the Challot! It is the old baker who put them in the Aron, foolishly believing that G-d Himself took them! But it was the shamash, & not G-d, who disposed of them!" And he laughed a coarse and conceited laugh.

The baker was so humiliated that he ran home & did not return to shul for weeks. Then, one night, the shamash had a dream. G-d appeared to him & said, "I have not been given such a pure & holy gift since My Temple was destroyed! Tell the baker I miss his offering. As for the wealthy man, his fate has already been decided."

The shamash rushed to the baker & pleaded for him to return & continue his gift of Challot – which he finally agreed to do. As for the other man, his fortunes soon turned, & he lost all of his money. He was seen years later, in tattered pants, on the streets of a nearby city - begging for a piece of bread.

Rabbi Stewart Weiss
Was ordained at the Hebrew Theological College in Skokie, Illinois, and led congregations in Chicago and Dallas prior to making Aliyah in 1992. He directs the Jewish Outreach Center in Ra'anana, helping to facilitate the spiritual absorption of new olim.
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