In my sixth-grade literature textbook, there was a section explaining that words can have different meanings. To elucidate the concept, it contained the following joke: “Why did the baker get so angry at the bread? Because it was so fresh.”
Any humor whatsoever in a school textbook was so exciting to me that I remember it now, decades later (and that’s the only thing I remember from those textbooks).
One of the best parts of every holiday is the preparation period beforehand. The excitement and anticipation continuously grow as we invest in the upcoming holiday. Primarily, that refers to our spiritual preparations. However, the physical preparations do a great deal to help get us into the festive mood.
Before Purim, that includes buying foods for mishloach manos. I wonder what the cashier in Target thought when I put tens of cans of the same soda on the cashier belt. When she asked me how I was doing, and I replied that I was very thirsty, she replied, “I can see that!” Of course, preparing for Purim also includes hamantashen baking. The only thing better than the incredible smell of fresh hamantashen is eating them.
One day last week, my daughter baked an assortment of hamantashen, some with raspberry jelly, some with chocolate, some with vanilla frosting, and some with lotus butter.
I don’t want to say lashon ha’ra about anyone, but it’s possible that the author of this article sampled a couple of each type to make sure they were good. (They were!) There’s nothing quite like freshly baked pastries.
But lest you think I was just indulging, there is actually a greater connection between fresh hamantashen and the celebration of Purim than you realize.
In Parshas Emor, the Torah details the holidays of the year: Pesach, Shavuos, Rosh HaShanah, Yom Kippur, and Sukkos. Of course, the rabbinically ordained holidays of Chanukah and Purim are not mentioned in the Torah. However, immediately following its discussion of the holidays, the Torah instructs about the daily lighting of the Menorah, a clear reference to the holiday of Chanukah.
The Torah then commands about baking the lechem ha’panim, the twelve showbreads placed upon the Shulchan (table) in the Mishkan sanctuary each Shabbos. The breads would remain on the table all week, until they were replaced the following Shabbos. Miraculously, when they were removed from the Shulchan, they were as fresh as when they were baked, a week earlier.
Rabbi Elazar of Worms (1176-1238), in his sefer HaRokei’ach, writes that the fact that the Torah instructs about the lechem ha’panim right after the Menorah is a veiled reference to Purim, particularly to the feasting and joyous nature of Purim.
What is the connection between Purim and lechem ha’panim?
The Gemara (M’nachos 29a) relates that when the nation came to the Beis HaMikdash for their tri-annual pilgrimage on Pesach, Shavuos, and Sukkos, the kohanim would show the assemblage the Shulchan with the fresh lechem ha’panim upon them and would declare, “See how beloved you are before the Omnipresent!”
The bread remaining fresh all week symbolized that our connection with Hashem also remained fresh and vibrant.
When Haman maligned the Jewish People to Achashveirosh in his efforts to convince the king to sanction his evil plan for mass genocide, he began by saying “yeshno am echad – there is one nation.” The Gemara (Megillah 13b) explains that the word yeshno is similar to the word y’sheinim – sleeping.
Haman was hinting to Achashveirosh that he need not be concerned that the Jewish People would be protected by their G-d, because the Jewish people were not fulfilling the mitzvos properly. “They are asleep in their performance of mitzvos.”
The salvation and celebration of Purim demonstrated that our connection with G-d had not become stale and trite but was still strong and fresh. Purim brought about renewed dedication and commitment to Torah and our mission to be the Torah nation. There was a national wave of joy, excitement, and pride.
Just as the lechem ha’panim symbolized the freshness of our connection with Hashem, so did Purim symbolize that same connection.
With that in mind, I think it’s fair to say that the tantalizing smell of fresh hamantashen (and all baked goods – I don’t discriminate) is part of the Purim celebration. It reminds us that Purim is a celebration of excitement and euphoric joy that results from feeling connected. It’s a joy that has to remain fresh in our minds long after the hamantashen are eaten or are no longer fresh.
 - סימן רמ' – "רמז בפרשת אמר אל הכהנים לאחר פרשת המועדות שמן זית זך רמז לחנוכה ואחריו ולקחת סלת ואפית רמז לפורים משתה ושמחה"