The portion of the Torah read this week discusses the architecture and vessels of the Tabernacle, including the Table and the Showbread. (Ex. 25:23-30) The details of the Showbread are given in parashat Emor. (Lev. 24:5-9)

[We will now discuss] the mystery of the Showbread, i.e. the twelve loaves that were always warm.

The loaves were baked on Friday, placed on the Table on the Shabbat, and eaten by the priests the following Shabbat. Miraculously, they stayed fresh for the whole week. (Menachot 96b)

You already know that above there are several types of couplings, which are [all] metaphorically referred to as "eating", as in the mystical meaning of the verse, "Eat, beloved ones". (Songs 5:1)

Eating is a euphemism for sexual relations….

Eating is a euphemism for sexual relations. Thus, we find that when Potiphar made Joseph in charge of his household and business affairs, "He left all that he had in Joseph's care, and with him in charge, he concerned himself with nothing except the bread he ate." (Gen. 39:6) Rashi comments: "This means his wife." And indeed, Joseph says when Potiphar's wife propositions him, "He has denied me nothing but you, being his wife." (ibid. 39:9)

Similarly, when Jethro heard that Moses had saved his daughters from a shepherd, he said to them, "Why did you leave the man [there]? Call him [here], and let him eat bread." (Ex. 2:20) Rashi comments: "Perhaps he will marry one of you," as Moses indeed did, as we are told in the next verse: "He gave his daughter Zipporah to Moses."

The verse quoted above is from the Song of Songs, the love poem between G‑d and Israel.

As to why eating should be a metaphor for sexual relations…

Now, the coupling of Abba and Imma is affected by the mazal of the beard of Arich Anpin. The numerical value of the word for "bread" [in Hebrew, "lechem", which has a numerical value of 78] is the same as that of the Aramaic word for mazal ["mazla"].

"Lechem" is spelled: lamed-chet-mem = 30 + 8 + 40 = 78.

"Mazla" is spelled: mem-lamed-zayin-alef = 40 + 30 + 7 + 1 = 78.

Divine consciousness…is channeled through the beard of Arich Anpin….

In order for a couple to unite in marital relations, there must be some inspiration that descends upon them from above. In the case of Abba and Imma, this inspiration is a spark of divine consciousness that descends upon them from the preceding parztuf, Arich Anpin, the will. Specifically, it is channeled through the beard of Arich Anpin, which, as we have discussed previously, subdivides into 13 "tufts", which in turn correspond to G‑d's 13 Attributes of Mercy. These attributes are called "mazalot" (pl. of "mazal"), meaning "channel of flow", since the root of "mazal" is nun-zayin-lamed, which means "to flow". Thus, the zodiacal signs are also called "mazalot", since they channel the divine beneficence into the natural world.

In other words, the will to live and enhance life is the motivation for Abba and Imma to couple. In prosaic terms, we might say that a couple can engage in marital relations either as an expression of love for each other or of their desire to become parents together. When focusing on the latter intention, their coupling is like that of Abba and Imma ("father" and "mother"), and the inspiration they draw upon to unite in this way comes from their own precedent, or parents. (The former intention is represented by the coupling of Zeir Anpin and Nukva.)

The names of the partzufim are in Aramaic, taken from the Zohar, as is this concept of mazal. That is why the numerical analysis uses the Aramaic term "mazla" rather than the Hebrew "mazal".

(The text refers to Arich Anpin by the Zoharic term Atika, not to be confused with the partzuf of Atik Yomin.)

[This mazal] is the sixth [of the thirteen], and [the letter representing the number 6, vav] is spelled out by doubling itself with another vav. These [two 6's] are manifest as the twelve loaves, arranged in two arrays of six each. They also manifest the two letters hei [of the name Havayah], whose numerical value when spelled out also equals twelve.

Coupling is referred to as heat….

One of the ways the letter vav, the third letter of the name Havayah, can be spelled out is vav-vav. These two vav's represent the two arrays of six loaves arranged on the Table.

The letter hei appears as the second and fourth letter of the name Havayah. One of the ways it can be spelled out is hei-alef; the numerical value of this combination is 5 + 1 = 6. So, the two hei's again give us two sets of six.

These twelve [loaves] derive from the three names Havayah present in the [said] mazal, which [together] comprise 12 letters.

The numerical value of these three names Havayah is the same as the numerical values of the words for "bread" and "mazal".

Yud-hei-vav-hei: 10 + 5 + 6 + 5 = 26. 3 x 26 = 78.

Since Abba and Imma couple continuously, this bread, i.e. the mazal that motivates them to couple, must be continuously on the table, as it is written, "[and you shall place] showbread on the Table before Me continuously." (Ex. 25:30)

For this reason also it was always warm, as it is written, "to place warm bread on the day it is taken off." (Samuel I 21:7) [It was always warm] to indicate that [the mazal, too,] is always warm, arousing the continuous supernal coupling [of Abba and Imma].

The Levite…exhibits no strict judgment….

Warmth and heat, in the vernacular also, are metaphors for sexual arousal. Rabbi Wolf Ashkenazi notes here that some texts add: "We find that coupling is referred to as 'heat', as it is written, '…whenever the flock are in heat.'" (Gen. 30:41)

[Only] the priests [were allowed to] eat this bread. This is because the priests manifested chochma, the beginning, the High Priest of all the ten sefirot.

The right axis of the sefirotic array alludes to the three types of priests: chochma to the High priest, chesed to the regular priests, and netzach to the assistant [segan] priests. The left side of the sefirotic tree alludes to the Levites. (See Sha'ar Ma'amarei Rashbi on the Idra, Zohar III:131b) The priests, who officiated at the sacrificial rites in the Temple, channeled the divine benficence downward to the people, and thus manifested the attribute of chesed, G‑d's lovingkindness. The Levites, in contrast, accompanied the Temple service with music, arousing the emotions of the people and focusing their consciousness upward, on G‑d. This ascent is an attribute of gevura, G‑d's strict judgment, for any ascent implies a transcedence or rejection of the lower level one is ascending out of.

Through this you may understand the meaning of the phrase: "The Levite Priests…" (Joshua 3:3) We see, in fact, that the Torah sometimes calls the Levites "priests", as it is written, "They will approach the priests, the children of Levi," (Deut. 21:5) and the like. The reason for this is that the archetypes for the priests and the Levites are chochma and bina, respectively. Since, as we have said, [these two sefirot] never part, the Levite on this level is "sweetened", i.e. [he exhibits] no strict judgment. He therefore is closely allied to the priests, and they all exist together, as one.

But below, [in their physical manifestation], the Levites manifest strict severity. They therefore cannot connect with the priests [as they do in their spiritual archetype]. This is why the showbread is eaten only by the priests, who manifest chochma.

Translated and adapted by Moshe-Yaakov Wisnefsky from Sefer HaLikutim; subsequently published in "Apples From the Orchard."

Reprinted with permission from Chabad of California. Copyright 2004 by Chabad of California, Inc. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this work or portions thereof, in any form, without permission, in writing, from Chabad of California, Inc.