This week’s parshah discusses the lechem hapanim (show-breads), which were featured in the Mishkan and Bais HaMikdash. The Gemara relates that when the Jewish nation was oleh regel to the Bais HaMikdash 3 times each year, there was one sign of love in particular that the Kohanim were instructed to show to every Jew: the miraculous lechem hapanim which stayed fresh and warm all week long. After displaying the lechem hapanim, the Kohanim would exclaim “look how dear you are to Hashem!” (Chagiga, 26b)
Now, there were many miracles that happened on a regular basis in the Bais HaMikdash. Why was this particular miracle chosen to signify Hashem’s love for us instead of the others? Furthermore, in what way does this miracle signify Hashem’s love for us in the first place?
We can answer this by addressing another question, which is discussed in the Gemara: When the Jews received mun (manna) in the desert, Hashem only gave each Jew exactly one day’s provisions, each and every day. Why did Hashem do so? Instead of requiring each Jew to go out and bring home his portion of mun each day, why didn't Hashem provide a full month's or year’s supply of mun at a time? Wouldn’t that have been more convinient for everyone?
When my little brother went to camp, my father specifically gave him only a fraction of the spending money which the camp recommended providing. When asked why, my father explained as follows: “Of course I will give him the full amount of spending money that he needs. However, I won’t give it to him all in one lump sum. You see, my son enjoys camp so much and, as many kids do, he tends to forget to call his father who loves him so much. So, I specifically give him less spending money than he will need. This way, he invariably calls me once a week, I get to talk to him and hear how he’s doing, and of course, before he hangs up, he asks for a little bit more pocket money which I agree to mail him. It’s a win - win situation”.
Hashem is our loving Father who wants nothing more than to have the closest imaginable connection and relationship with us, and cares to hear from us even more than the most loving parent. The Gemara explains that THIS is the reason why Hashem only gave us one day’s worth of food at a time, for it encouraged us to ask Hashem for food every single day. This system of constant connection brought our nation closer to Hashem than ever before, as it trained us to talk to Hashem regularly and ask Him for all of our needs (Yoma, 66a. Additionally, see there for a similar parable).
This was the lesson of the lechem hapanim and the lesson which the Kohanim were conveying to the Jewish people. When we saw the lechem hapanim bread, which usually begins to become stale after just a few hours, remain fresh and warm all week long, we understood with absolute clarity that Hashem was obviously capable of sending the mun in the desert once a month, or even once a year, while keeping it warm and fresh. Instead, Hashem specifically sent only one day’s worth of food because, like any loving father, He wanted to hear from us constantly and desired the constant connection that this system afforded.
When the Jews saw how important it is to Hashem that we turn to Him and ask Him for our needs, and how much He desires a constant connection with us, they re-strengthened and revitalized their davening and practice of regularly talking to Hashem. They got the message loud and clear: Talk to Hashem; He wants to hear from YOU.
The timeless lesson of the lechem hapanim is that Hashem is our loving Father and that He wants to hear from us on a REGULAR basis. Whether you want a big raise, or you simply need help finding your car keys, Hashem wants you to talk to Him and ask Him for help. With this understanding, we can answer an extremely important and fundamental question: On Rosh Hashanah, Hashem decrees exactly what will happen to us and what blessing we will receive that year. If so, why do we daven for our needs every day? Furthermore, if every detail of our year was ALREADY decided on Rosh Hashana, how could our davening to Hashem even help? R' Meir Stern uses the lesson illustrated by the lechem hapanim and answer as follows: true, Hashem has already decided on Rosh Hashana precisely which fantastic blessings He will give us this year. However, every single one of those blessings sit in heaven until we ASK Hashem for them. Hashem wants to give us blessing, but He also wants us to be in touch with him, like every loving father does. He knows that, similar to a child in camp who receives a generous amount of pocket cash, if we receive all of the blessings which He decreed without having to ask for it, we very well may begin to forget our Father. Therefore, Hashem holds onto all of it until the moment we ask for it, and only then will He shower it upon us, for He desires our words and prayers.
May we all understand how much Hashem cares to be a part of our lives, practice talking to Him more often, and feel the unbridled joy which can only be attained by having a connection with our Father in Heaven through prayer.