In this week’s parshah, Terumah, we read about the shulchan—the intricate table that was in the Holy Temple’s outer chamber called the kodesh (holy). While the menorah (candelabra) was made of one solid piece of gold, the shulchan was made of many different pieces. The table was made of wood and overlaid with gold; all the rest of its parts were made of pure gold. The shulchan was crowned with a golden trim which zigzagged. It had a golden framework, with golden trays that held 12 loaves of bread, called “show bread.” This unleavened bread had ends that turned upward on either side, so that the two ends faced each other. On the table were two golden spoons filled with frankincense.

What is the symbolism of the shulchan? How do we experience the shulchan in our lives today?

According to the Zohar, the shulchan was what brought blessing of sustenance to the tables of the whole world. According to the Talmud, the crown around the shulchan is symbolic of royal wealth, which King David deserved and received.

How can we harness these blessings in our own lives? By taking a deeper look at the shulchan and its parts, we find hints.

First, you have a table. The table is the center of the home; therefore, it is symbolic of the home itself, the center of Jewish life. Laden with pure gold and surrounded with a royal crown, it points to our dress and sense of dignity. How do we act? Do we see ourselves as ordinary, and thus dress and act that way? Or do we see ourselves as the royalty we are—the children of G‑d, the King of Kings—and act accordingly? The way we see ourselves affects the way we act. The way we act controls the spigot of blessing to our homes.

On the table was the Show Bread, which was unleavened. Bread is symbolic of our livelihood. Unleavened flat bread symbolizes humility, recognizing that our wealth is from G‑d and not arrogantly thinking that it is our personal accomplishment. The bread’s ends faced each other, symbolizing love for your fellow man. The fact that it is one loaf shows that we are essentially one at our core.

Frankincense is a good-smelling spice; it is white, the resin from a tree. Good smells symbolize someone who does mitzvahs. The pure white color means that it lacks ulterior motives. Just as it is from a tree, which is constantly growing, so must we constantly add in mitzvahs.

Finally, it was placed on the north side—on the left of one looking out towards the entrance of the chamber—because on a Kabbalistic level, the shulchan is connected to the cognitive faculty of binah, which is on the left. Binah is the ability to take an abstract concept and develop it into a concrete, understandable and meaningful idea. This is done by breaking down the many parts of the concept and understanding them thoroughly. This refers to the study of Torah. Learning, digesting, developing, and finally, bringing it down into the concrete, making it accessible to all.

This, in essence, is the Jewish home. It is a royal abode, a place of dignity, humility and love. A place of Torah and mitzvahs. A place where G‑d wants to be and gives His blessings.

This was written shortly after the untimely passing of Rabbi Yehoshua B. Gordon. He truly was the embodiment of all these ideas and more. A royal presence, dignified and humble; and his love for others was clear. He helped countless people (myself included) with his time and invaluable wisdom. He also made Torah accessible to all, creating thousands of classes that could be watched online. He was the embodiment of a Chassid and a shliach of the Rebbe. We all miss you.