קאוד: וועל אויס אלע
By Rabbi Eli Glaser
Let the work begin.
The book of Shemos concludes with the construction of the Mishkan and its holy vessels – one of which is the Shulchan, the golden table in which 12 loaves of “show-bread” miraculously remained fresh through the entire week.
The Shulchan epitomized the relationship a Jew must have with his physical sustenance, teaching us to always acknowledge the source of our nourishment and how HaShem expects us to behave with food. If we concretize this lesson and eat appropriately we achieve royalty, grandeur and true enjoyment. If we abuse this privilege, succumbing to our whims and follies – even while observing the highest levels of kashrus – we fall to depths of despair and isolation, all in the name of a “good time”.
Sound like hyperbole and exaggeration? How can this table, and the particular manner in which it was commanded to be built, quite possibly express this profound principle?
“He made a gold crown for its molding all around,” (Shemos 36: 12). In parshas Vayakhel, Betzalel, the Divinely-gifted expert craftsman, assembles the Shulchan, the plans for which were originally spelled out in parshas Teruma – 11 chapters earlier (Shemos 25: 25).
The Kli Yakar explains the significance of the crown molding surrounding the edge of the Shulchan, and how this seemingly simple “accessory” embodies the essential element for properly relating to food. He concentrates on the word זר (pronounced “Zair”) which is translated as the word “crown” in this verse.
“He should make an enclosure for his physical desires so there shouldn’t be a small opening for them (to manifest). Rather he should corral them and give them a fixed limit. (The verse says) ‘And you should make a gold crown for its molding all around,’ because when he encloses his physical desires, he is a free person and a king. To contrast with someone who breaches his boundaries (of physical desire) he will always be of poor wisdom. And (the verse) mentions זר (to teach that) if he merits (to put boundaries around his desires) he will be a “Zair”– crown royalty. If he doesn’t merit (to put boundaries around his desires) he will be a “Zahr” – stranger and alien, because he will leave his wealth and strength to others.”
Boundaries and guidelines are not restrictive, debilitating or confining, rather they are enlightening, enabling and elevating. The Kli Yakar is teaching us that only through putting suitable borders around our physical cravings will we have the opportunity for spiritual freedom and royalty. This means that a free person is someone who controls his desires – and appreciates the restraints – even if they feel uncomfortable and temporarily challenging. He will wear the crown of kingship and merit a royal relationship with the Creator.
Conversely, a person who breaks his bonds of spiritual priorities for pursuit of an immediate physical fix will always be of poor wisdom, left confused, confounded and perpetually coveting his next craving. A person in the throes of desire doesn’t think clearly, ending up a stranger even to his true essence – and estranged in his relationship with HaShem. The blessings from on High originally directed toward him will end up going to others because he alienated himself from the intrinsically deserving person he started out to be, ending up in a place of desperation and spiritual isolation – all for the sake of appeasing his appetite for instant gratification. That’s one mighty expensive meal.
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