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Torah Sparks

April 4, 2009 – 10 Nisan 5769

Annual: Leviticus 6:1 – 8:36 (Etz Hayim, p. 613; Hertz p. 429)
Triennial: Leviticus 7:11 – 7:38 (Etz Hayim, p. 617; Hertz p. 432)
Haftarah: Malakhi 3:4 – 24; 3:23 (Etz Hayim, p.1296; Hertz p.1005)

Prepared by Rabbi Joyce Newmark
Teaneck, New Jersey

Torah Portion Summary

Sefer Vayikra began with a description of the different types of korbanot (sacrifices). Parashat Tzav now takes the form of a priest’s manual, as God tells Moses to instruct Aaron about the rituals by which the kohanim are to offer the various korbanot.

We learn that the zevah sh’lamim, the offering of well-being, was to be brought for three reasons – for thanksgiving, in fulfillment of a vow, or as a freewill or voluntary offering.

A person in a state of ritual impurity was not allowed to eat from any of the sacrifices. No one is permitted to eat chelev (the fat covering an animal’s internal organs) or blood. Portions of these offerings were to be set aside to be given to the priests.

God instructs Moses about the ceremony of consecration of the priests. Aaron and his sons are washed, dressed in their ceremonial garments, and anointed. Moses offers sacrifices on their behalf. The ritual of ordination continues for seven days.

1. Everlasting Gratitude

If he offers it for thanksgiving, he shall offer together with the sacrifice of thanksgiving unleavened cakes with oil mixed in, unleavened wafers spread with oil, and cakes of choice flour with oil mixed in, well soaked. This offering, with cakes of leavened bread added, he shall offer along with his thanksgiving sacrifice of well-being. (Leviticus 7:12-13)

  1. If he offers on account of some occasion of thanksgiving, for a miracle that was performed for him, referring to those that go down to the sea, that travel through the wilderness, or are released from prison or recover from an illness. Such as these are required to give thanks; for regarding them it is stated: “Let them praise the Lord for His steadfast love, His wondrous deeds for mankind” (Psalms 107:21). If he vowed these offerings of well-being on account of any one of these, they constitute thanksgiving offerings, and the laws enumerated in this context apply to them, and they can only be partaken of for the space of one day and night from the time of offering up. (Rashi (Rabbi Shlomo Yitzhaki), 1040-1105, France)
  2. As for him who was fortunate enough never to have sinned even in error so that he need not offer any other sacrifices, he is duty-bound to make an offering of thanksgiving to demonstrate his gratitude to God for having protected him from sin. (Divrei Shaarei Hayyim (Rabbi Hayyim Sofer), 1821-1886, Hungary)
  3. All the mitzvot are aimed at cultivating our faith in God and a sense of gratitude to Him who created us. This is the aim of creation that man should acknowledge his Creator and give thanks to Him. This is the aim of all our prayers, of the synagogue where men gather to publicize this fact and proclaim: We are Your creatures! (Ramban (Rabbi Moses ben Nachman), 1194-1270, Spain)
  4. Rabbi Pinhas and Rabbi Levi and Rabbi Yohanan said in the name of Rabbi Menahem of Gallia: In the Time to Come all sacrifices will be annulled, but that of thanksgiving will not be annulled, and all prayers will be annulled, but [that of] thanksgiving (Modim anakhnu lakh...) will not be annulled. (Vayikra Rabbah 9:7)
  5. Modim anakhnu lakh: We proclaim that You are the Lord our God and God of our ancestors throughout all time. You are the Rock of our lives, the Shield of our salvation in every generation. We thank You and praise You morning, noon, and night for Your miracles which daily attend us and for Your wondrous kindness. Our lives are in Your hand; our souls are in Your charge. You are good, with everlasting mercy; You are compassionate, with enduring lovingkindness. We have always placed our hope in You. (Siddur Sim Shalom)

Sparks for Discussion

Rashi explains that the todah, the thanksgiving offering, was brought by someone who had come safely through a dangerous situation. What other occasions might call for such an offering? How might a modern Jew express gratitude to God in the spirit of the todah?

According to Vayikra Rabbah, in the time of the Messiah all sacrifices and prayers will be annulled except those of thanksgiving. Why? Surely God does not need our gratitude, so why is it so important that we express it not only on special occasions but every day? What about during times of distress or hardship?

2. Barukh Hashem

And the flesh of his thanksgiving sacrifice of well-being shall be eaten on the day that it is offered; none of it shall be set aside until morning. (Leviticus 7:15)

  1. Why was an offering of bread added to the offering of thanksgiving? In order that the donor might be able to share this, the tangible demonstration of his gratitude to God, with as many of his friends and neighbors as possible. (Klei Yakar (Rabbi Solomon Ephraim ben Aaron of Lunchitz), d. 1619, Poland)
  2. When a person’s life was in danger and he was saved, it is incumbent upon him to bring a karbon todah, a thanksgiving offering. Together with the offering he also brought 40 loaves of bread in four different forms. One of each kind was given to the priest. The remaining 36 were his to eat. There was a time limit of the remainder of that day and the following night. After that time they could not be eaten. Sforno [an Italian rabbi, Biblical commentator, philosopher and physician, 1475-1550] comments that the purpose of this extremely short time period was to ensure that he would share the bread with others. This would publicize the fortunate event.

    Note that the only time that such publicity was a part of the offering was in the case of good news. A person felt deep gratitude to the Almighty for His help and in this joyous state he shared his joy with others. When a person brought an offering for a sin, this was not publicized. When things were going wrong in someone’s life, he did not do this. Only when he had an event to be thankful for did he publicize it. This should be our model for choosing topics to speak about. Keep your main focus on the multitude of kindnesses the Almighty does for you. While there is definitely a need to share problems and difficulties with a sympathetic and understanding listener, the main areas to publicize are the good that happens to you. (Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, “Growth Through Torah,” p. 244-245)

Sparks for Discussion

Our commentators suggest that it is not enough for a person to express gratitude to God privately. Thanksgiving requires public expression. Why? The implication appears to be that when a person publicizes the good that God has done for him, others will be drawn closer to God. Do you agree? How do you think most people respond to news of another person’s good fortune? Why?

How do you answer when someone asks, “How are you doing?” Do you begin to complain or do you mention something you feel good about? How do you react to people who complain all the time? How can we learn to be more grateful on a daily basis?

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