What does a loaf of braided bread have to do with an alabaster box?
Every Friday evening as Jewish families gather around their tables for their Sabbath meal, there on the table will be a loaf of beautiful braided bread. While this bread is one of the best-known traditional Jewish foods, many don’t know the history behind the name of the bread or that the challah actually comes directly from the Bible. The truth is that the name challah does not actually refer to the bread itself. The bread is a memorial of the challah. Merely a reminder each week that as we celebrate the Sabbath together and eat the challah bread, we are reminded that the Temple no longer stands and that we do not have a priesthood serving in the Temple. You see the challah was actually a portion of the priest’s grain offering that was given by the Israelites as part of their worship. After the offering was given as a portion of the offering, it was separated and placed onto the altar to be completely consumed. The priests would eat the balance of the grain offering, but the portion of the challah was given not to the priest but to G-D. Today the challah we eat is a memorial reminder of the portion that was to be given to G-D. Still today when baking our challah, a portion of the batter is pinched off and set in the oven to be consumed in memorial of this offering given to G-D. (Levitcus 2:12-16)
You may still be asking yourself “so what does challah have to do with the alabaster box?”
Well, let’s look at the description in Mark 14:3-9
3 And while Yeshua was in Bethany at the house of Simon ha-Metzora, reclining at the table, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive oil of pure nard. Breaking open the jar, she poured it over His head. 4 But some got angry and said among themselves, “Why was this fragrant oil wasted? 5 It could have been sold for over three hundred denarii, and the money given to the poor!” And they kept scolding her. 6 But Yeshua said, “Leave her alone. Why do you cause trouble for her? She’s done Me a mitzvah. 7 For you always have the poor with you, and you can do good for them whenever you want; but you won’t always have Me. 8 She did what she could—she came beforehand to anoint My body for burial. 9 Amen, I tell you, wherever the Good News is proclaimed in all the world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her.”
First notice that the woman was willing to give all she had including the container itself, which she broke. Like the challah, a portion of the offering was to be destroyed. In the case of the grain offering, it was burnt. In the case of the alabaster box, the box was broken. The challah had oil poured upon it, and Yeshua had oil poured upon Him. Both the challah and oil from the alabaster box were given to the priest (Yeshua is our High Priest). Both offerings could be given to the poor. In respect to both offerings, there were those who complained about the priests receiving the gift. Both deal with bread challah, the braided bread eaten on Sabbath. Yeshua is the Bread of Life and L-RD of the Sabbath. Both are memorials still spoken of today over 2000 years later.