Hands-on Reenactment of Temple Bread Baking in Biblical Israel

When they are ashamed of all they have done, make known to them the plan of the Temple and its layout, its exits and entrances—its entire plan, and all the laws and instructions pertaining to its entire plan. Write it down before their eyes, that they may faithfully follow its entire plan and all its laws. Ezekiel 43:11 (The Israel Bible™)

While many read and study about the breads of the Beit Hamikdash (Temple) in the Bible, few have the opportunity to see – and even taste – them come to life. Situated in the Biblical land of the Shomron in Israel, Saidel’s Artisan Baking Institute holds yearlong workshops facilitating this epicurean opportunity for the whole family.  

Baking breads is Les Saidel’s passion. After leaving a career in Israel’s high tech industry in 2008 to open the family-owned Saidel Artisan Baking Institute, Saidel trail blazed the field of Biblical baking with his “Breads of the Beit Hamikdash” hands-on baking workshop and reenactment – the only one in existence.

Kids at the Saidel Artisan Baking Institute. (Credit: Eliana Rudee/Breaking Israel News)

“Tourists have come from all four corners of the world for this workshop,” he told Breaking Israel News.

The idea came to him after corresponding with Professor Zohar Amar of the Department of Land of Israel Studies at Bar-Ilan University.

Zohar specializes in “flora and fauna of the Land of Israel, according to descriptions in classical Jewish sources” and over the last five years, Saidel and Amar have corresponded to research bread during Temple times, even creating replicas of the baking utensils, the bread themselves and the Showbread Table, used in the Temple offerings.

Focusing specifically on the breads described in Jewish texts, Saidel has conducted the hands-on workshops since last summer, teaching techniques and explaining the history and symbolism behind three of the many different types of breads mentioned in the Talmud and commentaries.  

Starting with a virtual video tour of the Beit Hamikdash, Saidel shows a video portraying a timeline of the history of the Jewish people: from temple times to the destruction of the temples, the Holocaust, establishment of the State of Israel, prophetic ingathering of the exiles, post-1967 war prayers at the Western Wall, planting wheat fields, Start Up Nation excelling in technology, men studying in Yeshivot, Saidel’s bakery and finally, looking forward to the building of the Third Temple.

Saidel explains the ingredients and methods to mixing and baking the dough that was used almost two thousand years ago (such as using a metal oven, a deep pan used for frying oil and a flat griddle/skillet pan), also teaching about how wheat goes from a grain to one’s table.

Saidel also explains the importance of such a workshop. Discussing the Biblical requirements of what the people of Israel might need to build the Third Temple, Saidel explained that while weekly Jewish prayer mentions avodat hamikdash (temple services), few actually understand what that might look like.

According to Saidel, by going through the steps of baking bread as well as better understanding the purposes for bread in the Temple, the Jewish people will be better prepared in Third Temple times. “If Moshiach arrived tomorrow, we wouldn’t know how to bake the breads or where to get solet (semolina) from, so we need to map our resources and be ready,” he maintained. Perhaps, said Saidel, this learning and eagerness could actually hasten Moshiach (the Messiah).

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He explained, “After Yehezkel Hanavi (Ezekiel the Prophet) saw the people of Israel going into galut (exile) during the destruction of the First Temple, God appeared to him and commanded him to teach the people of Israel about the Beit Hamikdash.” In the context of its destruction, he said, “learning about it keeps it alive.”

“Each individual needs to find their way to be ready. I want to help with the initial stages of the lechem hapanim (the weekly Showbread communal offering that symbolizes material wealth, baked on Fridays by the people of Israel),” he said, proud that his way “is a way of peace and something that appeals to everyone.”

Using a Biblical strain of wheat sourced from Italy that Saidel says is “identical to the strain of wheat used in the Beit HaMikdash, and different from the flour commonly used today,” participants have the opportunity to make three types of breads: shtei halechem (two sacrificial wheat loaves that allowed the people of Israel to eat the wheat harvest), korban toda (a thanksgiving offering that those who experienced a miracle would bring to thank God, hosting a large meal with the bread) and lechem hapanim.

By recreating these three breads, Saidel fanaticizes that God will appear to him and say “Yes! That’s exactly what the bread looked like!”

Demonstration of lechem hapanim and Temple storage. (Credit: Eliana Rudee/Breaking Israel News)

The Saidels are proud to combine such century-old techniques and practices with healthy ingredients, nutritional research and of course, fun-filled education for families to enjoy together.

In addition to his Breads of the Beit Hamikdash workshop, Saidel runs workshops on artisan methods of baking, flatbreads from around the world, challah baking, healthy baking, doughnuts, croissants and bourekas, bagels and more.

Saidel is also working on making his workshops mobile by constructing a custom-made mobile oven that can reach temperatures up to 580 degrees Fahrenheit – a feat Saidel hopes to finish by Rosh Hashanah. When this is complete, Saidel will travel around Israeli schools and higher institutions of learning and even take his show on the road internationally, collaborating with other Temple study institutions to reacquaint the masses with authentic temple practices and rekindle the age old yearning for rebuilding the Third Temple.