I am a fan of population growth. To survive and thrive, both societies and economies need children brought into the world and raised properly. Knowing this, you might expect me to sympathize with a request for advice that I received from an individual starting a non-profit educational organization created to encourage large families. While I do appreciate his goal, I found one striking omission in his message. Nowhere did he discuss the importance of earning a living and managing finances while raising these families.
As regular Thought Tool readers have learned, the Five Books of Moses are divided into 54 portions or sedras, each with its own name and theme. (In Rabbi Daniel Lapin’s Recommended Bible, the start and end of each sedra is clearly marked.) Which one would you guess contains the most frequent usage of the word ‘bread’? (Yes, we are still discussing the same topic!)
Would it perhaps be Bo*, the third sedra in the Book of Exodus, containing extensive instructions about eating unleavened ‘bread’ or matzoh on Passover? Wrong!
Okay, how about Beshalach*? The fourth sedra in Exodus does describe ‘bread from heaven’ or Manna. But you would be wrong again.
Terumah*, the seventh sedra of Exodus, mentions bread several times in the context of the Tabernacle table upon which the bread was displayed. It too is not the correct guess.
It turns out that Emor*, the eighth sedra in the Book of Leviticus contains no fewer than fourteen mentions of bread, making it an easy winner. Yet the theme of this sedra seems to have little to do with bread. It is chiefly about developing and maintaining closeness to God; first by means of purity (Leviticus 21 & 22), then festivals (Leviticus 23), and finally by rule of law (Leviticus 24).
To understand why bread is so central to maintaining closeness to God, we need to remember what bread means in Scripture.
He who works his land will have enough bread*…
In Scripture “bread” means money just as it does in colloquial slang: “Got any bread?” “Can you lend me some dough?”
Similarly, ‘field’ means the work you do to obtain your bread. To this day, when inquiring about professional activity, people ask one another, “What field are you in?”
Prepare externally your work, and make it fit for yourself in the field;
afterwards, build your house.
Acquire from outside yourself a means to earn a living. In other words, find out what people around you need that you can supply. Once your field is producing, get married (build your house).
A lightweight who can afford servants is better
than one who honors himself but lacks bread
This is amazing! It’s better to have enough bread to pay for the services you need in life and be considered a lightweight by some, rather than thinking a great deal of yourself but being poor.
Again and again in the Bible, the word bread plugs us into reality. Bread/money reminds us to keep our feet on the ground. Unless you are in the fraud and robbery business or doing something immoral, making money means you are serving other people as well as helping yourself.
Regardless of what drives you, forgetting finances is sheer folly. By repeatedly mentioning bread, Emor teaches that being deeply dedicated to getting close to God means being rooted in the reality He created. That is a world in which money allows us to live with dignity, follow His commandments and form positive relationships with many other people. It is what allows us to provide shelter, food, medical care and clothing for our families. Our children do not need luxuries and we do them a disservice by providing too many material goods, but we are responsible for supporting those we bring into this world.
Faith is not a justification for stressful poverty. Articles that discourage having children because “experts” reveal how much it costs to raise a child are usually foolish and biased. Ignoring the importance of establishing a livelihood that allows one to provide for a large family similarly presents only part of a picture. God does not want His children to make their love for Him, including His commandment to “be fruitful and multiply” a refuge from reality, but rather a part of the total vision.
References in our recommended Bible:
*Bo – p. 190, in the margin, 2 lines from the bottom (see English transliteration on p. 191, 3 lines from the bottom).
*Beshalach – p. 204, in the margin around ⅓ of the way down the page (see English transliteration on p. 205, spelled Beshallah.)
*Terumah – p. 238, in the margin around ⅔ of the way down the page (see English transliteration on p. 239, spelled Teruma).
*Emor – p. 368, in the margin around ¾ of the way down the page (see English transliteration on p. 369.)*bread = לחם, for example, p.1992, 8 lines from the bottom, last word on the line.
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