Marking Jewish Themes with Devotion
Sabbaths, Feasts, and More
Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty” (John 6:35).
I love bread. That is why it is on the top of the list when I need to fast. A few months ago, I went without bread for a few weeks. Feeling deprived, I started dreaming about large sourdough loafs, freshly baked and slathered with butter. Somebody help me!
The good news is that the abstinence brought a spiritual breakthrough. That crack of light illuminating a current problem came straight from heaven and offered me new direction. It also reminded me of my desperate need for heavenly bread and not just hot buttered sourdough.
The Hebrew word for bread is lechem; and it is so interesting, because it comes from the same root as the word for war – milchamah. In Hebrew, it is very significant when different words share common roots. You are probably asking the same question I did, “What kind of language and culture connects bread and war? And to fully complicate things a third meaning derives from the pure root: lacham, “to be joined together.” So… these meanings come from the same letter combination past tense root: “he battled,” “he ate bread,” and “he joined together.” Fascinating!
Ludwig Koehler, in his Dictionary of the Hebrew Old Testament, explained that the third root may have reflected the action of being “closely packed together” like in times of war. Before high-tech combat, actual hand-to-hand fighting occurred in tight places. Soldiers stood side-by-side with their comrades and battled face-to-face with their enemies. Also Koehler suggests that bread is a scarce and nutritious commodity during war. You must have it to continue fighting. Bread and war go hand-in-hand.
Bread is found in many places in the Bible. The first is when Adam was cast out from the garden of Eden, be-ze’at apekha tokhal lehem… “you will eat lechem by the sweat of your brow.” Here it means not just bread but food.
The Hebrew Sabbath blessing, “who brings lechem from the earth” also has a dual meaning of bread and food. After the Sabbath prayer, bread is tasted around the table before the meal is eaten.
In Jewish thought the Torah is tasty and nourishing like bread and should be ingested in the soul and spirit with the same kind of enjoyment and hunger. I love the story in the book of Ezra when the prophet began to read from the book of the law of Moses to the people. They stood and listened, with focused attention, from morning until noon. And that living bread caused them to repent of their sins and the sins of their parents. They also resolved anew to keep God’s covenant.
It’s amazing how the people of Israel endured standing “for hours” because they were starved spiritually, Undernourishment in the spirit of man will enable him/her to forget physical hunger or discomfort sometimes because the need for spiritual filling is so innate, so deep.
To Christians and Messianic believers, the word lechem becomes powerful. Yeshua or Jesus was born in Bethlehem or beit-lechem in Hebrew or House of Bread. This is precious because he is called the “Bread of Life.”
Well, I enjoyed my crust of freshly baked bread today. It satisfied my body and soul somehow. But I just can’t live without my spiritual bread… God’s Word. That, excuse the expression, just takes the cake. It’s the heavenly manna that rocks my world and makes me feel alive!
And I think I better get this house picked up today lest I be accused of eating the “bread of idleness”… something a Proverbs 31 woman refuses to do.
For more study…
John 6:47-51, Leviticus 22:6-7, Acts 2:42
Work it into daily life…
The breaking of bread is common and mystical at once. It is daily and yet has the power to make strangers friends and create strong bonds in families through sharing. Meditate on the Hebraic meanings of bread and ask the Lord how they might be incorporated into your lifestyle to bring richer meaning to sharing around the table. Also when you take the time to read God’s Word for the day, consider the nourishment you receive in your spirit as you partake. Regard it as necessary and not superfluous to your life. Yeshua is our daily bread.
©Bonnie Saul Wilks