HaShem continued, “Make a Shulchan, a wooden table. Completely cover the Shulchan in pure gold, with a decorative gold rim all around the edges.”
On the table were special trays for the 12 loaves of lechem hapanim – the special bread. These 12 loaves were baked every Friday, before Shabbos, and remained there for an entire week, until the following Shabbos, when they were given to the group of Kohanim who were working that week in the Mishkan. At the exact moment the 12 loaves from the past week were removed from the shulchan, 12 new loaves were placed on the shulchan. So it ended up that the shulchan was never empty of its 12 loaves of lechem, not even for one second.
Miraculously, while the 12 loaves of bread were replaced with new bread – the “old” bread stayed perfectly fresh!
Years later, when Bnei Yisrael entered the land of Israel, they would visit the Beis HaMikdash 3 times a year – Pesach, Shavuos and Sukkos. During those visits, to demonstrate this great miracle, the Kohanim would lift up the “old” loaves of bread and proudly proclaim to everyone, “Look how much HaShem loves us! See this bread baked a week ago? It’s soft and fresh, as if it came out of the oven just now!”
This is why it’s called “The Show Bread,” showing Bnei Yisrael the awesome miracle of HaShem.
Although we no longer have the 12 Lechem HaPonim, many people make their Shabbos Challah with the number 12.
The 2 loaves of braided Challah, called the Lechem Mishneh, are made with 6 strands each, so, 2 x 6 =12.
Believe it or not, there are some Grand Rabbis, aka Chassidishe Rebbes, who have the custom to recite HaMotsi on 12 loaves of Challah for their Shabbos meals! Wow! They must have some huge Shabbos tables with lots of guests!
Even the greatest Torah scholars were left scratching their heads regarding this Mitzvah of Lechem HaPanim:
The wise Rambam wrote, “I don’t know why there needed to be a table with bread on it.” (This was in his book Moreh Nevuchim, where he explains the reasons for many of the Mitzvos.)
The great *Kabbalist, the Arizal, asked HaShem, “Yigalei Lan Ta’amei Di ViSreisar Nahamei” – “May He reveal to us the reason for the twelve breads,” in the famous song called Asader L’Seudasa which he composed to be sung during the Shabbos morning meal.