- Lechen HaPanim Part 2

Lechen HaPanim Part 2

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Lechen HaPanim Part 2

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by Esther Livingstone

The  Lechen HaPanim

HTU-  Hilchos Temidim Umusafim           (Part 2)


  1. We said that the Lechem HaPanim was rectangular.  What else can be said about its unique shape?

  2. How much did each loaf weigh?

  3. What other item was put on the shulchan, and remained there all week, along with the 12 loaves?

  4. What time of the day, on Shabbos, was the Lechem HaPanim arranged?

  5.  The mishmarot of the Kohanim changed over on Shabbos day.   Kohanim of which mishmar would arrange the new Lechem HaPanim?

  6. How many Kohanim worked together to remove the old and arrange the new Lechem HaPanim on the shulchan? What specifically was each of these Kohanim carrying?

  7. What was the procedure for the transfer?

  8. Why was it done in this unusual manner?

  9. How were the loaves placed on the table – length on length, or length on width?

  10.  How was it possible that a loaf whose length was 10 tefachim fit on the shulchan, whose width was only only 6 tefachim!?

  11.   Where on the shulchan were the 2 vessels of levonah placed?

  12.   Did the loaves in each stack rest on each other, or on something else?

  13.  Where were the loaves that had been removed from the shulchan placed?

  14.  What was done to the levonah that had been removed?

  15.   Kohanim of which mishmar -outgoing or incoming- divided up and ate the loaves?

  16.  Was one satiated from eating this bread?

  17.  What other “miracle” is associated with the Lechem HaPanim?

  18.  Did the ordinary person ever get to see the shulchan or the Lechem HaPanim?


1. The Rambam says that the loaves looked like a two sided box ( ie: U), but whose upper edges/flaps were turned in. (HTU 5:9)  There are other differing opinions in the gemara, Menachos 94b. The loaves had to be unleavened, and were thus baked quickly. (Pesachim 37a -second Rashi) They also had to remain unbroken both during the baking and afterwards.

2. Two vessels, each containing a kometz/handful of pure   לְבוֹנָה/ frankincense.  This because the Torah states “You shall put pure levonah on each stack...” (Vayikra 24:7) (HTU 5:2) (Frankincense is a resin extracted from the Boswellia sacra tree. Source 3 below)

  1. The loaves were fairly large, and each one weighed almost 5 kilos/11 lbs! (source 3)

  2. It was arranged in the early afternoon, at the start of the 7th hour.

 (source 2 - p 569)

  1.  The Kohanim of the outgoing mishmar would arrange them. (HTU 4:9)

  2. Eight Kohanim worked together, and they were selected in the lottery   held on Shabbos morning.  (HTU 4:9)   Two of them would each remove 1 stack of loaves and 2 would each remove a vessel with the לְבוֹנָה/frankincense.  Another 2 each brought in 1 stack of the new loaves, and the last 2 each brought in a vessel of the frankincense. (HTU 5:4)

  3. The 2 Kohanim coming in to arrange the new loaves would stand to the north side of the shulchan and the ones taking out the old breads would stand to the south of the shulchan. The 2 Kohanim would pull the loaves off the table, and simultaneous to this the other 2 would slide the new loaves into their place. Thus the edges of the old and new stacks were always within a tefach (8 cm/3.15 “) of each other. (HTU 5:4)

  4. Because the Torah says that the loaves should be “...before me continually” – the shuchan should never be bare of the loaves. (Shemos 25:30)

  5. The loaves were placed with their length across the width of the shulchan.  (HTU 5:9)

  6.  Because before being baked, 2 tefachim on each end of the breads were folded over. (See answer 1).  The breads were therefore only 6 tefachim long.  (Rashi, Menachos 94a) (HTU 5:9) 

  7.   They were each placed adjacent to one stack of bread, in the extra two tefachim in the middle of the table. This because the Torah says “You shall put pure levonah on each stack” (Vayikra 14:7). On/  עַל in this pasuk means “next to”, as it does in Bamidbar 2:20. (HTU 5:2)

  8.  The loaves rested on rods of gold, so that air could circulate between the loaves and preserve their freshness. (HTU 5:2)

  9.  They were placed onto a golden table that stood in the Ulam/entrance hall near the opening of the Heichal building. (HTU 5:5)

  10.   The two Kohanim would add salt to the vessels -because any offering brought upon the mizbei’ach required salt (Menachos 20a).   They would then offer up all the levonah on the pyre of the outer mizbei’ach.  This because the Torah says “ shall be a remembrance for the bread, a fire offering for Hashem.” (Vayikra 24:7, HTU 5:5).

  11. The Kohanim of both mishmarot would divide and eat the loaves each Shabbos! Some of it was also given to the Kohen Gadol, since the pasuk says “It shall belong to Aaron and his sons...” (Vayikra 24:9).  (HTU 5:3) The loaves were only divided after the levonah was offered on the pyre. (HTU 5:5)

  1. The gemara says that a Kohen who ate even a tiny piece of the showbread would be fully satisfied!  The bread became “blessed within his innards.” (Yoma 39a)

  2. Bread exposed to the air for a week’s time would normally become stale, however the Lechem HaPanim miraculously stayed as fresh and warm all week long as on the day it was baked! (Menachos 96b, Chagiga 26b).   It never became mouldy or dried out.

  3. On each of the shalosh regalim the people who came to the Beis HaMikdash were shown the table and the showbread!  Pointing to the always hot and fresh showbread, the Kohanim would say to them “Look at how beloved you are by G-d!” (Menachos 29a)

Ha’amek Davar: Like the Shabbos, the Lechem HaPanim is also called בְּרִית עוֹלָם/ eternal covenant (Vayikra 24:8)  Just like the Shabbos, the showbread symbolizes that it is Hashem who provides prosperity for His servants.

In many explanations, the showbread symbolizes material prosperity, and is meant to be a reminder that our food as well as our livelihoods come only from Hashem!



  1. Avodas Hakorbanos- by Rav Aharon HaKohen (Kagan) Translation- Rabbi Moshe Weiss- Pub:Artscroll 2020

  2. Sefer Ha’Avodah- Rambam- With commentary by Rav Eliyahu  

Touger- Pub-Moznaim -2007

           3.   The Showbread (article)- by Rabbi Mendy Kaminker,


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