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Parshat Tzav: Wonder Bread

I wouldn't have believed it unless I saw it with my own eyes... "Wonder" Bread (or at least this particular product of theirs) is hechshered (kosher-certified)! See the little OU symbol beneath the "R" on the top of the package? You'd still never catch me eating this, though... I'm far more a whole-grains girl!

BS”D

I dedicate this parsha-post as a zechus for a refuah sheleima for Shaina bas Chaya Mushka.

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In this week’s sidra of Tzav, the inauguration-rituals of Aharon and his sons as Kohanim begin, and the torasos (laws) of the five major categories of kobanos (olah/elevation, mincha/meal, chatas/sin, asham/guilt, shelamim/peace) are delineated for us.

Let’s flip to the third Aliyah, commencing the topic of the zevach-shelamim… the focal point of our learning this week.

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“V’zot toras zevach hash’lamim asher yakriv la’Hashem.  Im al-todah yakrivenu v’hikriv al-zevach hatodah challot matzot b’lulot bashemen ur’kikin matzot m’shuchim bashemen v’solet murbechet challot b’lulot bashemen– And this is the law of the peace offering, which he shall bring to the Lord:  If he is bringing it as a thanksgiving offering, he shall offer, along with the thanksgiving offering unleavened loaves mixed with oil, unleavened wafers anointed with oil, and scalded flour mixed with oil.”  {Vayikra 7:11-12}

The shalmei-todah (thanksgiving-peace offerings) the Torah describes here constitute a subcategory of peace-offerings.  Rashi elaborates that for an individual who’d merited a life-saving miracle from G-d – either returning to dry land following a sea-voyage, or making it safely through a journey in the desert, or being freed from prison, or surviving a fatal illness – if he wished to express his gratitude further with a sacrifice, this particular offering was the protocol.  Rashi draws from the wellsprings of King David’s Tehillim, and quotes:  “Yodu la’Hashem chasdo v’niflotav livnei adam.  V’yizb’chu zivchei todah visapru ma’asav b’rinah – They shall give thanks to the Lord for His kindness, and for His wonders to the children of men.  And they shall slaughter sacrifices of thanksgiving, and they shall tell of His deeds with song.” {Tehillim 107:21-22}  Added to his animal-sacrifice was a special, obligatory provision of bread, when the individual resolved to bring a shalmei-todah.  This assemblage of bread equaled two ephas, a bounteous combination of challot (cakes), rakikin (wafers) and murbechet (bread made from thoroughly-scalded dough) – all made in matzah (unleavened) form – “al-challot lechem chametz – along with loaves of leavened bread. {verse 13}”  Ten loaves of each of these four kinds were baked, bringing the grand total up to forty loaves!  What’s more, this feastly contribution had to be entirely consumed on the day of its offering!  (By Torah law, it could be eaten throughout the night till dawn; but the Sages decreed it had to be finished by chatzos [halachic midnight] in order to steer clear of error and transgression through laxity and delay.)

For a person to thank and praise Hashem for preserving his life, we wouldn’t expect any less of a decent Jew; after all, our title of “Yehudim” is rooted in the Hebrew word “hodu,” to thank.  The attribute of hakaras hatov (gratitude) is bound up with our very essence.  It is even more admirable when a person takes from his own livestock, wishing to express his indebtedness further.  However, when we learn what the “obligatory provision of bread” to accompany the sacrifice entailed, we might question why G-d seems to have excessive expectations.  “G-d, I really do love You, You did spare my life, and I’m trying to do a nice thing… but why must You put such a strain on my purse?  Flour doesn’t come cheap here in the wilderness.  I’m a simple man; why must this be so extravagant?  A bagel – even if it’s a little stale – and bit of over-salted lox are more to my taste.”  Indeed, there must be a deeper, Divine intention to this offering.

I would like to humbly offer my own understanding of why the Torah might necessitate one to go to such lengths (once he’s vowed to bring the offering).

A person for whom a salvation has been wrought must naturally be awed, and indescribably grateful, that his life has remained with him against all the odds… it is simply miraculous.  However, Hashem seems to appear unsatisfied with the person’s own private praise; we are pushed to do more.  In simple language… why make a big deal of it?

I vaguely remember something our rebbi taught us on this parsha a few years ago, perhaps from one of the Meforshim (not Rashi), though I can’t quite recall.  He explained that since the shalmei-todah was so abundant, and its consumption was restricted to a rather brief period, the one making the offering was encouraged to invite others to partake in the feast, so that they could eat it all in a timely and practical fashion.  Through enjoining his guests to celebrate with him, the offer-er simultaneously publicized the miracle Hashem had made for him, spreading and strengthening belief in Hashem’s ultimate goodness and everlasting kindness. “Hodu la’Hashem ki-tov, ki l’olam chasdo – Give thanks to the Lord because He is good, for His kindness is eternal.{Tehillim 136:1} 

Perhaps this is why the blessed man was required to prepare a banquet.  It has been common knowledge since our nation’s ancient days that Jews love getting together around food.  Who knew that something so deep could take place at the table?  Through this offering, others were drawn near to celebrate Hashem’s miracles, rather than take them for granted.  Savoring the thanksgiving-peace offering, they literally ingested the wonder.  The wonder of His glory… the wonder of His might… the wonder of His kindness… a spiritual side to the physical meat and bread.  This was another miracle in and of itself.

Is that not something to glorify?

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What are some miracles in your life?  They needn’t be life-saving ones; miracles are constantly taking place.  To quote Jewish musical star Tzivia Kay: “Every second miracles go on.  You send them down, You send them down; and if only people noticed, there’d be mercy, peace and love, all over this chaotic world.”  Mercy, peace and love are all what our korbanos did, and continue to achieve.  It is vital for us to acknowledge the miracles – never minimize them – in order for these blessings to be effectuated and expressed.  Celebrate them at every moment and share the joy, bringing awareness of them to others, and together let’s say, “Baruch Hashem (Blessed be/Thank G-d)!”

 

— The Messenger Bird

 

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