Light & Bread: Leviticus 24:1-9

Here be repetition. The tour of an annual cycle of re-creational holy-days that began with the weekly Sabbath, and rolled through Passover harvest to Savuot, then Rosh Hoshanah through Booths to Simcha Torah in the fall harvest, all suggested a perspective long after the land of Israel had been settled, perhaps even exiled and returned from Babylon. Now, suddenly, we’re back in the literary conceit of the desert tent of Exodus! Repetition.

The first 4 verses command fine olive oil for lamps to keep burning before the ark of the covenant, all the time, evening to morning, for all time throughout the ages. Aaron the priest keeps the lampstands (menorah) burning.

The next 5 verses command a dozen choice loaves for the table before the Lord. This is shew-bread, or bread of display, coming daily to the priests, most of it for their own sustenance, and some for ritual burning with incense. Again, the priests mind the daily rotation.

These bits may seem non-sequitors to the annual cycle, but I’ll suggest again as a guy inside religious institutions that the sanctuary home fires have to keep burning, the table must always be set, continuously between the great festivals. It’s a bit like the ‘Christmas and Easter’ complaints of core religious leaders, that one serves the other, in rhythm and balance.

What are your daily routines, modest contributions to string the pearls between the brighter gems of high holidays and unforgettable moments?

The other warm spot for me is the provision for remuneration and sustenance for the priests. There is a conversation throughout Leviticus, often between the lines, about how much of the sacrifice is for Yahweh in smoke, how much is redistributed to the commonwealth, what remainder feeds the priests, and how much returns to the worshipers, theirs again, marked as ‘from God’.

Do you think of our balance between your own stuff being blessed, the wages paid to the religious workers, charity for the needy of the community, and outright waste in the pursuit of beauty and aesthetics in religion?

Leviticus 24:1-9

The LORD spoke to Moses, saying:

2 Command the people of Israel to bring you pure oil of beaten olives for the lamp, that a light may be kept burning regularly.

3 Aaron shall set it up in the tent of meeting, outside the curtain of the covenant, to burn from evening to morning before the LORD regularly; it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations.

4 He shall set up the lamps on the lampstand of pure gold before the LORD regularly.

5 You shall take choice flour, and bake twelve loaves of it; two-tenths of an ephah shall be in each loaf

6 You shall place them in two rows, six in a row, on the table of pure gold.

7 You shall put pure frankincense with each row, to be a token offering for the bread, as an offering by fire to the LORD.

8 Every sabbath day Aaron shall set them in order before the LORD regularly as a commitment of the people of Israel, as a covenant for ever.

9 They shall be for Aaron and his descendants, who shall eat them in a holy place, or they are most holy portions for him from the offerings by fire to the LORD, a perpetual due.