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Parsha Tzav

03/22/2019 01:35:08 PM


Parshas Tzav discusses the specifics of many Korabos, including the Shelamim and Toda.  Korban Shelamim is a general category of voluntary Korbanos that have parts offered on the Altar, parts given to the Kohanim, and parts eaten by the owner of the Korban.  As a subcategory of Korban Shelamim, the Torah introduces the Korban Toda, which differs from a Shelamim in several ways.  Firstly, the Korban Toda is accompanied by 40 large loaves of bread, and secondly, both the animal’s meat and the bread must be eaten on the same day the Korban is offered, unlike the Shelamim that can be eaten for two days.  How does one decide whether to bring a Shelamim or Toda?  This is a matter of great dispute, as there is a school of thought that understands that a Shelamim is entirely optional and is brought without any specific stimulus, whereas the Toda is a mandatory Korban for anyone who was saved from the four dangerous situations mentioned in Tehilim 107- imprisonment, illness, travel over an ocean, or travel though a desert.  Although one is allowed to offer an optional Korban Toda as a means of gratitude even without experiencing one of the four dangers, the Toda is chiefly a mandatory Korban designed for these four people.  While this idea is based on Rashi’s comments to Menachos 79b and Zevachim 7a, there is a different school of thought that views the Todah as a completely voluntary means of gratitude, and the idea from Tehilim 107 of these four people thanking God is to be understood as a “suggested donation”- a highly compelling idea, but still left to the individual’s discretion.  Given that “Birchas Hagomel” is instituted in place of the Korban Toda, these two schools of thought present a difference in practice whether being saved from one of the four dangers obligates one to recited Hagomel or only suggests that one recite Hagomel, and in fact, there is a dispute in the Poskim about this very issue.  According to either approach, a Toda is different from a Shelamim in that it is offered specifically to thank God, whereas the Shelamim is a voluntary Korban without a particular objective.

There is a fascinating duality about the Torah’s perspective on giving thanks to God.  On the one hand, there are indications that thanking God should be publicized and shared with other people.  The unique laws of the Toda- the 40 accompanying loaves of bread and the shorter time-span for eating- are reflective on the imperative to share the thanks with others, as if the Torah is forcing the owner to invoke other people’s help in eating the Korban.  Similarly, the law is that Birchas Hagomel must be recited in front of an assembly of ten males, a minyan, based on the Pasuk that “they will praise you in front of the nation,” again suggesting the need to share the gratitude.  Additionally, instead of just answering Amen to Birchas Hagomel, there is the anomalous response to the bracha of “Mi Shegimalcha,” again showing that the surrounding people are actually participants in the thanking process.  Instead of passively listening to the bracha and acknowledging with “amen,” the tzibur plays the proactive role of participation in the gratitude.

From another angle, there are aspects of gratitude that are highly personal.  For example, the Gemara in Zevachim 7a discusses the scenario of a Kohen who slaughtered Reuven’s Korban Toda with the intent that it was Shimon’s Toda, and the ensuing Sugya discusses the implications of such an error.  The Rishonim point out that although all Korbanos have a sense of ownership, the ownership is defined by who will be receiving “atonement” or “appeasement” from its offering and not as a part and parcel of what the Korban is.  In a regular Korban like an Olah or Shelamim, the incorrect thought would be if the Kohen thought it was either a different Korban entirely or if he thought that someone else would receive “appeasement” from the offering.  Merely thinking that the Korban is owned by someone else is insignificant, because the Korban is not defined by its ownership, but rather by its laws or who its “appeases” for.  The one exception is the Korban Toda, where Reuven’s Toda is considered a different type of Korban than Shimon’s Toda, and a mistake in the ownership of the Toda is tantamount to thinking it was a completely different Korban.  The lesson is clear- no two acts of gratitude are the same, and as such, “my toda is entirely different than your toda,” not only in terms of who received appeasement, but rather as intrinsically different offerings.  In a different context, we find that although the Shliach Tzibur recites the Shemoneh Esrei aloud for the congregation, the Modim blessing is recited individually by all those present.  The Avudraham suggests the reasoning behind this is because there is no idea as an agent saying thank you on behalf of someone else, as gratitude is a highly personal matter than can be done only face to face.  Although the Shliach Tzibur can recite many things on behalf of the congregation, Modim is not one of them.  Perhaps this is the flavor behind the Midrash that eventually all Korbanos will cease except for the Korban Toda, because no level of closeness will ever replace the need for personal touch.  This duality is also cultural, as found in the expression “I want to publicly thank,” a deep and almost paradoxical statement.  Thanking someone blends a highly personal experience with a sense of sharing, just as we find in the Torah’s idea of thanking, the Korban Todah.      

Wed, June 7 2023 18 Sivan 5783