May 16, 2024
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May 16, 2024
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Our parsha brings up the incident of the mekalel, the person who committed the atrocious and severe sin of blaspheming Hashem. How did he come to commit such an evil?

According to R’ Berachya, who is quoted in the midrash (see Vayikra Rabbah 32:2 with Etz Yosef’s commentary and Rashi to Vayikra 24:10), the mekalel’s sin ultimately originated from his scoffing of the lechem hapanim. The lechem hapanim consisted of 12 loaves of bread that were baked in the Temple every Friday. On Shabbat, the new loaves were placed on the Shulchan, while the loaves that had been placed there on the previous Friday were taken off the Shulchan and eaten by the Kohanim. The mekalel thus noted that each batch of lechem hapanim was eaten more than a week after it was baked, and he, therefore, scoffed that it was bound to be eaten cold. (It seems that he wasn’t aware of the fact that a miracle occurred every week, and the lechem hapanim remained as hot and fresh when it was removed from the Shulchan as it had been at the time it was placed on the Shulchan the previous week—see Gemara Menachot 96.)

It seems that the mekalel couldn’t understand and accept this feature of the lechem hapanim, thus leading him to scoff, and ultimately leading him to blaspheme Hashem.

Rav Chaim Mintz asks: Why is the lechem hapanim being targeted? After all, there are many things in the Torah that people don’t necessarily comprehend so much, and so, why did the mekalel specifically mock the lechem hapanim? What stood out about the lechem hapanim that seemed to have perked the mekalel’s interest more than other things?

Rav Mintz explains as follows: When the Mikdash was functioning, various entities that were in the Mikdash contained the power to inspire and draw down an abundance of good to the world. So, for example, the Menorah would draw down the bounty of wisdom. The Shulchan,upon which the lechem hapanim were placed, would draw down the bounty of sustenance to the world.

When the mekalel learned of the fact that the bread that was eaten was a week old, he claimed that Hashem does not provide so much goodness, for he figured, look here—the bread that is eaten is old and cold! The mekalel believed that if the service of the Shulchan was carried out with bread of this sort, it must be that Hashem’s abundance to the world is not always necessarily good. Hence the mekalel chose to highlight the lechem hapanim specifically.In truth, however, the fact that such a miracle occurred with the bread, can actually show the very opposite of the mekalel’s perspective of Hashem’s providence over the world. It shows that Hashem indeed infuses into the world such tremendous abundance without any lackings, and that sometimes He even sends it in miraculous, nature-defying, ways.

Thus, we can learn from here that even when it may seem to us that things in life are lacking and don’t seem good, in truth, it is a blessing, since Hashem’s intentions in every matter are for the good and for our best. We can further learn from the mekalel that one who lacks the belief that Hashem does everything for the best, can ultimately descend to committing severe sins, like that of the mekalel (“Etz HaChaim,” Emor).

Rav Mintz’s insights into the story of the mekalel can perhaps teach us the imperative of working on our emunah and bitachon in Hashem. The fact that the mekalel may have lacked the very fundamental belief that Hashem does everything for the best was so impactful that it may have ultimately led him to commit such a terrible act and fall to the unfortunate level he descended to. Hence, from a practical standpoint, taking the time to work on improving our emunah and bitachon in Hashem can not only enhance our emotional state, but it can, perhaps, also serve as a deterrent—a powerful security to keep our middot and behaviors in check.


Binyamin Benji is a graduate of Yeshivas Rabbeinu Yitzchak Elchanan, and Wurzweiler School of Social Work.

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