Parsha Tzav - Wayyiqra/Leviticus 6:8 - 8:36
Engagements, anniversaries, graduation, retirement, homecoming, new baby - all of these are great reasons to celebrate and throw a party.
But in Torah times, there was a different kind of party that people often had.
They had thanksgiving parties!
No, not the American turkey-and-pilgrims kind of party, but a party to give thanks to YAHUAH for His good and benevolent Hand.
It's All in the Details
This week’s parsha, Parsha Tzav, goes into more details about the offerings. It may seem like a repeat of the previous parsha, but it actually talks more about the ‘how’ of the offerings, explaining more of the priests’ role and duties.
Parsha Tzav also talks about what disqualifies an offering, determined by how and when it’s brought, who eats it, what's eaten, what’s not eaten, contact with uncleanness, etc.
One offering stands out with a particular requirement for its acceptance. It’s the peace offering (shlamim).
The peace offering was cattle, sheep, or goat. It was different from the other animal offerings because most of the meat was actually kept by the one who brought the offering (the owner of the animal). The burnt offering was completely consumed on the altar, and the sin offering was eaten only by the priests.
For the peace offering, only certain parts were burned on the altar (fat, kidneys, and liver appendage), and the blood, of course, was sprinkled on the altar (Wayy/Lev. 3). Of the meat, the breast and the right thigh were given to the priests as their portion, and the rest of the meat, the owner took home (Wayy. 7:29-36).
Also, along with the animal, the peace offering required an accompanying offering of bread. Four different types of bread were brought totaling 40 loaves. One loaf of each kind was given to the priest making the offering. The rest of the bread went home with the one who brought it.
Someone Say "Party?"
Now, here comes the ‘odd’ stipulation for the peace offering: it had a time limit. The rest of the animal and the remaining (36) loaves of bread had to be eaten the same day!
The thanksgiving peace offering was eaten the same day, and the vow or voluntary peace offering had to be eaten by the following day. If any of it was eaten past the time limit, the offering was not accepted.
It may be hard to imagine in our grocery store part-and-parcel shopping lifestyle, but a whole animal is a lot of meat! Even a small lamb provides way more meat than an average family can eat in a day. And 30+ loaves of bread?!
What’s a person to do? If any of it lasts longer than a day, then his offering wouldn’t be accepted.
The solution: a thanksgiving party!
The only way to consume all the food of the thanksgiving peace offering by the required time limit was to share it!
So, he who gave thanks to YAHUAH with a thanksgiving peace offering then invited all his friends and family over to eat and celebrate the goodness of YAH. Everyone in attendance knew that YAH had done something great for the host, and they all celebrated and gave thanks together. What a way to party!
A Proper 'Thank You'
Sadly, people don’t really do this nowadays. People celebrate themselves and their own accomplishments, and if they do celebrate something good that happens, YAH is often left out of the equation.
We Yahudim have to get back to our roots. Get back to understanding the importance of thanksgiving. It’s who we are!
Yahudim, in simple terms, means “worshipers of YAH.” It’s related to the word l’hodot, which means “to thank or to admit.”
A Yahudi’s nature is to thank YAHUAH.
A complete thanksgiving includes the second aspect of l’hodot, “to admit.” We have to admit that we don’t deserve YAH’s goodness. Most of the peace offerings were brought when YAHUAH saved someone from a life-threatening situation (a perilous journey, recovery from major illness, release from captivity, etc.).
An acceptable thanksgiving offering included a humble acknowledgment that one didn’t deserve YAH’s goodness in saving him. He would admit that he indeed deserved the trouble he was in because of his deeds. It was only YAH’s goodness and compassion that saved him.
Such is the pattern of true thanksgiving to YAHUAH: We give YAH thanks, admitting that we did not deserve His kindness. We admit that we deserved the distresses we were in, and it was only His compassion and kindness that saved us.
Plan Your Party
Today, in lieu of an animal offering, we can recite the following as a thanksgiving offering - the Birkat Hagomel:
Blessed are You YAHUAH our Elohim, Sovereign of the universe, Who bestows good things upon the guilty, Who has bestowed every goodness upon me.
Response: So be it. May He Who bestowed goodness upon you continue to bestow every goodness upon you forever.
Whenever we’re blessed with undeserved kindness from YAHUAH, we should recite the blessing above in the presence of others. (Or some variation that both gives thanks and admits it was undeserved.)
What better way to do it than throwing a ‘thanksgiving party’ and making your speech a blessing to YAH!
And can you think of a better witness to others? Who would turn down an invitation to a party with free food?
Invite everyone, feed 'em, and share YAH's goodness with them!