Shelah Lekha –Holiness Domesticated

When you come into the land to which I am bringing you, and you eat of the bread of the land, you shall set some aside as a gift to the LORD; from your first batch of dough you shall set aside a loaf (challah) as a gift.   (Num. 15:18-20)

When you come into the land . . .”  Chapter 15 consists of a miscellany of laws inserted after the failure of Israel to enter the land of Canaan.  This failure has condemned the adult generation to wander in the wilderness until it has died out.   Most of the laws begin, as this one does, “when you come into the land . . .”  Medieval commentators suggest that these laws provide a measure of forgiveness and reassurance that Israel will, after all, enter the land.

a loaf (challah)  According to Ezekiel 44:30, the loaf is set aside “so that a blessing may rest on your home.”  From the fact that the verse specifies “home” rather than “crop,”  Milgrom concludes that these verses are “directed to the nonfarmer, who, like the farmer, is also made to feel that his provender should be subjected to a ‘first fruits’ offering.”  This same word challah has come to designate the sweet bread we eat on the Sabbath.

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