The Thanksgiving Offering

People in Bible times did not celebrate the American holiday of thanksgiving, but they had their own thanksgiving meals, nonetheless.

Photo by Ryan Christodoulou on Unsplash

Portion Summary & Scripture Reading

Special Shabbat Reading

Special readings are applicable this Shabbat.

  • Shabbat HaGadol (שַׁבָּת הַגָּדוֹל | The Great Sabbath)
  • Haftarah: Malachi 3:4-24
  • Gospel: Matt 17:9-13

Shabbat HaGadol ("Great Shabbat") is the Shabbat immediately before Passover. There is a special Haftarah reading on this Shabbat of the book of Malachi. Traditionally a lengthy and expansive sermon is given to the general community in the afternoon. Read more from Wikipedia »

Regular Shabbat Readings

  • Tzav (צַו | Command)
  • Torah: Leviticus 6:1-8:36 *
  • Haftarah: Malachi 3:4-24
  • Gospel: Matthew 9:10-17

* References are from the Hebrew Bible. Christian Bibles vary slightly when indicated with *.

Portion Outline

  • Torah
    • Leviticus 6:8 | Instructions concerning Sacrifices
    • Leviticus 7:11 | Further Instructions
    • Leviticus 8:1 | The Rites of Ordination
  • Prophets
    • Jer 7:16 | The People's Disobedience

Portion Summary

The twenty-fifth reading from the Torah and second reading from the book of Leviticus is called Tzav, which means "Command." The name comes from the first word of Leviticus 6:9, where the LORD says to Moses, "Command Aaron and his sons ..." Tzav reiterates the five types of sacrifices introduced in the previous portion but this time discusses the priestly regulations pertaining to them. The last chapter of the reading describes the seven-day ordination of Aaron and his sons as they prepared to enter the holy priesthood.

Psalm 107 describes four different reversals of fortune: those lost on a long journey who find a city, those released from bondage, those who recover from a life threatening sickness and those who survive a violent storm at sea. The sages mandate that the survivor of one of those scenarios should bring a thanksgiving offering.

Leviticus 7 describes a particular type of peace offering called the todah (תודה), which means 'thanksgiving.' The thanksgiving offering differs from the peace offering in that it must be eaten on the same day it is sacrificed. All other peace offerings must be eaten within two days, but the Thanksgiving offering is only allowed a single day.

The Torah also prescribes extra measures of bread to accompany the thanksgiving offering. The mandate to eat the thanksgiving offering on the day it is offered is intended to generate a large, festive meal around this particular sacrifice. In order for the entire animal and all the breads to be eaten in one day, the offerer is required to host a large banquet. Family and friends would be recruited to participate in the mitzvah of the thanksgiving offering.

Of course, once the assembled company was seated and ready to share in the sacrificial meats of the thanksgiving offering, they would inquire about the occasion. The host would then offer his testimony explaining why he had chosen to make a thanksgiving offering. Thus the ritual requirement of a large feast functions to proclaim the glory of the LORD.

Anyone could bring a thanksgiving offering at anytime. One who had survived a sickness or seen a remarkable answer to prayer would be inclined to bring a thanksgiving offering to the LORD. An abundant harvest, a favorable verdict, the birth of a child and numerous other happy events might occasion a thanksgiving offering.

From the laws of the thanksgiving offering we learn the principal of proclaiming the LORD's goodness. When we have special reason to be thankful to the LORD, we should make the effort to express our gratitude. Even though we can no longer bring the sacrifice of the todah, we can still host a festive meal, invite friends and family, and share the LORD's goodness with them. It is a unique privilege to be able to publicly thank the LORD for His goodness.

A spirit of gratitude is evidenced throughout Paul's epistles. Over and over again he exhorts his readers to give thanks to God. His salutations always include declarations of this own gratitude. He is always giving thanks and always telling us to do the same. For Paul, prayer was primarily a reflex of gratitude.

Gratitude is probably the most important key to living in happiness and contentment. A gratefully hearted person is grateful in every situation. An ingrate is never happy.

Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Yeshua, giving thanks through Him to God the Father. (Colossians 3:17)

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Adapted From: Torah Club Commentary Set: Unrolling the Scroll. Learn more about Torah Club and how you can start a Club of your own, or join a Torah Club in your area. Visit TORAHCLUB.ORG

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