A Baker Tries to Uncover the Lost Recipe of the Temple’s Sacred Bread

Feb. 11 2019

As described in Exodus 25 (read in synagogues last Saturday) and Leviticus 24, twelve loaves of bread were supposed to be placed on a special table in the inner sanctum of the Temple every Friday, which would then be eaten by the priests on the Sabbath of the following week. Les Saidel, a South African-born Israeli baker, has been working to recreate these loaves—known as the leḥem ha-panim or “showbread”—according to talmudic specifications. Alan Rosenbaum describes Saidel’s efforts:

The loaves had an unusual shape, and even though they remained on the golden table for a full week, they stayed fresh. They had to be prepared and baked quickly because they were unleavened, like matzah. Each loaf was quite substantial, weighing about seven or eight pounds according to some opinions, and as much as fifteen pounds according to others.

According to tradition, the Garmu family managed the baking process, ensuring that the bread was prepared properly. The work of baking, preparing, and removing the showbread from the ovens required great skill, and the Garmu clan kept their trade secrets within the family. . . .

[There is a] debate between talmudic authorities as to the exact shape of this mysterious bread. One authority said it was shaped like an open box; another rabbi maintained that it had the shape of a “dancing ship.” Based on the design found on coins minted by Mattathias Antigonus II, the last of the Hasmonean kings, in 42 BCE, which depict the golden table with the showbreads stacked on it, Saidel feels that the shape was similar to that of a U-shaped “dancing ship” with a curved bottom, rather than that of a V-shaped frame with a pointed bottom.

“The freshness question depends on two things,” Saidel explains. “If you use the same flour that we use today—soft wheat—it becomes stale much quicker. If you use the ancient, hard wheat—durum wheat—it has a much longer shelf life.”

Read more at Jerusalem Post

More about: Hebrew Bible, Religion & Holidays, Talmud, Temple


Why President Biden Needs Prime Minister Netanyahu as Much as Netanyahu Needs Biden

Sept. 28 2023

Last Wednesday, Joe Biden and Benjamin Netanyahu met for the first time since the former’s inauguration. Since then, Haim Katz, Israel’s tourism minister, became the first Israeli cabinet member to visit Saudi Arabia publicly, and Washington announced that it will include the Jewish state in its visa-waiver program. Richard Kemp, writing shortly after last week’s meeting, comments:

Finally, a full nine months into Benjamin Netanyahu’s latest government, President Joe Biden deigned to allow him into his presence. Historically, American presidents have invited newly installed Israeli prime ministers to the White House shortly after taking office. Even this meeting on Wednesday, however, was not in Washington but in New York, on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.

Such pointed lack of respect is not the way to treat one of America’s most valuable allies, and perhaps the staunchest of them all. It is all about petty political point-scoring and interfering in Israel’s internal democratic processes. But despite his short-sighted rebuke to the state of Israel and its prime minister, Biden actually needs at least as much from Netanyahu as Netanyahu needs from him. With the 2024 election looming, Biden is desperate for a foreign-policy success among a sea of abject failures.

In his meeting with Netanyahu, Biden no doubt played the Palestinian issue up as some kind of Saudi red line and the White House has probably been pushing [Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman] in that direction. But while the Saudis would no doubt want some kind of pro-forma undertaking by Israel for the sake of appearances, [a nuclear program and military support] are what they really want. The Saudis’ under-the-table backing for the original Abraham Accords in the face of stiff Palestinian rejection shows us where its priorities lie.

Israel remains alone in countering Iran’s nuclear threat, albeit with Saudi and other Arab countries cheering behind the scenes. This meeting won’t have changed that. We must hope, however, that Netanyahu has been able to persuade Biden of the electoral benefit to him of settling for a historic peace between Israel and Saudi Arabia rather than holding out for the unobtainable jackpot of a two-state solution.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Joseph Biden, Saudi Arabia, U.S.-Israel relationship