ואם נדר או נדבה זבח קרבנו ביום הקריבו את זבחו יאכל וממחרת והנותר ממנו יאכל
(ויקרא ז, טו)
In this week’s parasha we read about various sacrifices that were brought to the Temple in ancient times. One of them is the “thanksgiving offering” (קרבן תודה).
Anyone who felt thankful to God for something could bring this offering. The Talmud tells us four people had the obligation to bring it, after being delivered from a troubling situation: those who traveled through seas or through deserts, ill people who got better and those who were released from captivity. (Today we have a special thanksgiving blessing for these situations: ברכת הגומל).
The thanksgiving offering differed from other offerings in two major aspects. First, it was brought with a considerable side offering of leavened and unleavened bread, 40 loaves in total. Second, the time allocated to eating the meat from the sacrifice was limited to the day of the offering only (with most offerings, the meat could be eaten the next day as well):
And the flesh of the sacrifice of his peace-offerings for thanksgiving shall be eaten on the day of his offering; he shall not leave any of it until the morning.
(Bereshit 22, 12)
Why these differences?
With regards to the limited time to eat the meat, this reminds us of another offering: the Passover sacrifice (קרבן פסח), which is to be eaten “in haste”. The reason being, that the People of Israel had to leave Egypt quickly and could not waste time. The idea of not losing the moment seems to be relevant also for the thanksgiving offering. The Torah knows human nature well. A person saying “thank you” expresses a fleeting moment of gratitude. We are not “programmed” to express thankfulness and rare are those moments when we feel so deeply grateful as to actively do something about it (for example, bring a sacrifice to the Temple). The time limit on the eating of the meat is designed to align with the short-lived nature of our feelings. We should feast on this meat only while we are still truly feeling thankful.
One person is unlikely to be able to eat the entire sacrifice alone, so the time limit also means one is more likely to share the meat with others, so it doesn’t go to waste. Especially so as this thanksgiving offering included 40 loaves of bread. The abundance of food in this sacrifice forces us to share. When we share, we include others in our feelings of gratitude, we tell them the story behind the bringing of the sacrifice, and we generally bond with others. In this manner we also extend our private expression of thankfulness to God to the public domain and thus fulfill a further mitzvah of praising God and sanctifying His name (קידוש השם).
May we all learn from the ideas behind the thanksgiving offering so as to be truly thankful for what we have.