This week’s Torah portion, Tzav, (Lev. 6:1 – 8:36) concerns the particulars of the burnt offering, the guilt offering and the offering of well-being. The portion ends with the narrative of the first seven days of the preparation of Aaron and his sons for ordination to the priesthood.
The zevach shlamim, the offering of well-being, has different forms. The first is the thanksgiving offering; the offering brought by someone who is grateful for something that has happened in his or her life. Unlike the burnt offering, in which the entire animal is consumed on the altar, in the thanksgiving offering, certain parts of the animal are sacrificed to God, and the remainder is to be eaten by the donor and his or her family and friends.
Although we have come far from the time from sacrificing animals to God in the Tabernacle, we still retain the human need to give thanks to God for our good fortune. Perhaps we can make more of a connection with our ancestors if, when we are sharing a festive meal with loved ones and feeling gratitude for what we have, we realize that our emotions may not be that different than were theirs. A midrash in Leviticus Rabbah states, “Though all sacrifices may be discontinued in the World to Come, the offering of thanksgiving will never cease. Though all prayers may be discontinued, the prayer of thanksgiving will never cease.”