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Parsha and manuscript: Tzav - 'A thanksgiving'

Friday, 3 April, 2020 - 2:34 pm

MS. Canon. Or. 81 Tzav.png

In the portion of Tzav, it discusses the laws of the sacrifices including a thanksgiving peace offering, whereby if a person is rescued from danger they should offer a thanksgiving offering to G-d that in the times of the Temple consisted of an animal offering together with a grain offering mixed with oil. The Torah states:

 

This is the ritual of the sacrifice of well-being that one may offer to the Lord: If he offers it for thanksgiving, he shall offer together with the sacrifice of thanksgiving unleavened cakes with oil mixed in, unleavened wafers spread with oil, and cakes of choice flour with oil mixed in, well soaked.

 

Thanksgiving can also be found in Psalms:[1] ‘Sacrifice a thank offering to G-d, and pay your vows to the Most High;’[2] ‘In G-d we glory at all times, and praise Your name unceasingly.’ Similarly, it states:[3] ‘Enter His gates with praise, His courts with thanksgiving. Praise Him! Bless His name! For the Lord is good; His steadfast love is eternal; His faithfulness is for all generations.’

The thanksgiving in the context of Leviticus however relates specifically to when a person is saved from four cases of danger: sea voyage, desert travel, imprisonment and illness. This is explained in Psalms,[4] whereby after each of these situations it states:[5] ‘They shall give thanks to the Lord for His kindness and for his wonders to the children of men.’ This is also found in the Talmud:[6] ‘Rav Yehuda said that Rav said: Four must offer thanks to G-d with a thanks - offering and a special blessing. They are: Seafarers, those who walk in the desert, one who was ill and recovered, and one who was incarcerated in prison and went out.’

 

Others who offered thanks to G-d at times of danger in the Torah include: Jacob and Jonah. Jacob said to G-d when he was about to encounter Laban:[7] ‘Jacob then made a vow, saying, “If G-d remains with me, if He protects me on this journey that I am making, and gives me bread to eat and clothing to wear, and if I return safe to my father’s house—the Lord shall be my G-d. And this stone, which I have set up as a pillar, shall be G-d’s abode; and of all that You give me, I will set aside a tithe for You.”’ Similarly, Jonah said:[8] ‘But I, with loud thanksgiving, will sacrifice to You; What I have vowed I will perform. Deliverance is the Lord’s! The Lord commanded the fish, and it spewed Jonah out upon dry land.’

 

The commentary of Rashi applies the four categories of thanksgiving to the verse in Leviticus: ‘If he offers it for thanksgiving, he shall offer together with the sacrifice of thanksgiving unleavened cakes with oil mixed in, unleavened wafers spread with oil, and cakes of choice flour with oil mixed in, well soaked.’ Rashi comments:

 

If he is bringing it as a thanksgiving-offering: i.e., if he is bringing the offering to give thanks to G-d for a miracle that had happened to him, for instance, those who made a sea-voyage and returned safely or journeyed in the desert, or those who had been imprisoned and were subsequently released, or a sick person who recovered. All these are required to give thanks to G-d, for regarding them, it is written, “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.”[9] If on account of one of these one vowed to bring these peace-offerings, then they are  “thanksgiving peace-offerings” (shal’mei todah), which require the accompanying offering of bread, mentioned in this passage, and they may be eaten only on the day that they were offered and the night that follows, as is specified here.

 

Manuscripts

 

In the printed edition it states: If on account of one of these one vowed to bring these peace-offerings, then they are (hein) “thanksgiving peace-offerings” (shal’mei todah). In the majority of the manuscripts it omits ‘they are’ (hein) and instead states: ‘If on account of one of these one vowed to bring these peace-offerings, then their name is (sh’man) – of the sacrifice: “thanksgiving peace-offerings” (shal’mei todah). This is how it is found in MS. Oppenheim 34 (1201-1225),[10] MS. Canon. Or. 81 (1396),[11] MS. Michael 384 (1399),[12] MS. Oppenheim 35 (1408)[13] and MS. Canonici Or. 35 (1401-1425).[14] In some of the manuscripts the word ‘sh’man’ is also vowelized for clarity, as can be found in MS. Oppenheim 34, MS. Michael 384 and MS. Canonici Or. 35. In a single manuscript: MS. Oppenheim Add. 4° 188, it reads the Hebrew word ‘sh’man,’ that consists of the three Hebrew letters ‘shin,’ mem’ and ‘nun,’ not to mean ‘their name is’ but rather (oil) ‘shemen.’ These three ways to read the text of Rashi represents two ways of understanding his comment.

 

Definition

 

The Torah is defining the law of the thanksgiving offering in detail that consists of grain and oil. This is represented by MS. Oppenheim Add. 4° 188 that reads the Hebrew word ‘sh’man,’ as (oil) ‘shemen.’ In this context, Rashi is merely detailing the law of the thanksgiving offering that a. it involves four cases of danger, and b. consists of gain and oil.

 

Clarification

 

A second perspective is that the Torah is explaining that the sacrifice of thanksgiving in the case of four cases of rescue from danger is in fact called peace offering of thanksgiving. Without this clarification one would have thought it was a thanksgiving offering but not a peace offering of thanksgiving. Accordingly, the four cases are not germane to the commentary itself.[15]

 

This explains the reason for the vowels in many of the manuscript to negate the first interpretation. This also explains the reason for the change in the wording of Rashi from the manuscripts to the printed edition – from ‘their name is’ (sh’man) to ‘they are’ (hein), since, as can be seen in MS. Oppenheim Add. 4° 188, that misconstrued the word ‘sh’man’ (their name is) to ‘shemen’ (oil).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

[1] Psalms 50:14.

[2] Psalms 44:9

[3] Psalms 101.

[4] Psalms 107.

[5] Psalms 107:21-22.

[6] Talmud Berachot 54b.

[7] Genesis 28:20-22.

[8] Jonah 2:10-11.

[9] Psalms 107:21-22.

[10] Fol. 63.

[11] Fol. 101.

[12] Fol. 77.

[13] Fol. 61.

[14] Fol. 126.

[15] Likkutei Sichot 12:22.

 

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