Korban Todah & Pesach
Last week’s parsha talked about the need to bring offerings and the various types. Our parsha this week deals with the particulars of how to bring the various offerings. The one that I would like to focus on is the Korban Todah or Thanksgiving Offering. It is an offering that is a subset of Shlamim or Peace Offering. The Torah says:
If he offers it for a Todah, then he shall offer with the Todah sacrifice unleavened loaves mingled with oil, and unleavened wafers spread with oil, and loaves mingled with oil, of fine flour soaked. With loaves of leavened bread he shall present his offering with the sacrifice of his Shelamim for a Todah. And he shall offer one of each kind for a gift to Adonai; it shall be the priest who sprinkles the blood of the Shelamim. And the flesh of the sacrifice of his Shelamim, for a Todah, shall be eaten on the day of his offering; he shall not leave any of it until the morning. (Lev. 7:12-15)
Rashi states that one was supposed to bring this offering when he or she had just suffered grave danger. He lists four circumstances; after crossing the sea, after crossing the desert, after being sick, and after being imprisoned.
This gets connected to Psalm 107 which mentions all four circumstances. It begins “Give thanks to Adonai, for He is good, and his love endures forever.” Then it mentions all those who are to praise Him; those who go “down to the sea in ships” (sea travel), those that “wandered in the wilderness” (desert), those that came to the “gates of death” (illness), and those who “sat in darkness, in death’s shadow” (prison).
The Torah states that one is to bring unleavened loaves, unleavened wafers, loaves soaked in oil and leavened loaves, but it doesn’t specify how much. The Mishnah teaches that there are 10 loaves of each category for a total of 40 loaves of bread! These are 30 loaves of matzah and 10 loaves of leavened bread. That’s a lot of bread! Moreover, unlike other shlamim offerings which can be eaten over several days, the Todah offering requires it to be eaten in one!
What is even stranger is the mitzvah to bring leavened loaves. In last week’s parsha we read, “No grain-offering that you bring to God shall be made with leaven, for you shall not offer up in smoke any leaven or honey. As an offering of first fruits you may bring them to God, but they shall not come upon the altar for a sweet aroma.” (Lev. 2:11-12)
So what is going on here?
Our Sages teach that the amount of food needing to be eaten in one day encourages the one bringing the Todah to invite friends and family together and feast on the bread and the animal that was sacrificed. (Remember that a portion of the animal in a shlamim, was eaten by the offeror). The person has experienced deliverance from a great threat to their life and they are to thank Hashem for His deliverance and tell their friends about it and celebrate it with them. This is hinted at in Psalm 107 when it says “let them give thanks to God for His mercy” and “let them exalt Him”.
And our sages say that matzah is poor man’s bread and therefore represents our affliction when our life was at risk. But leavened bread is a rich man’s food and it expresses the abundance of His goodness for rescuing us from danger. This is why the Torah allows leaven for this one type of offering.
So the bread and the meat is to be eaten on the same day, none of it may be left over until morning. Does this sound familiar? Of course, this is the command that God gave Israel at the Exodus. They were to slaughter a lamb, put its blood on the doorposts of their houses, then eat it with matzah and bitter herbs. And none of the meat could be left over until morning.
The Passover Seder is essentially a Todah Offering! We are slaughtering a lamb and eating it with matzah and bitter herbs with our friends and family all in one day. Pesach is a national Korban Todah. Just as a person eats with their friends and tells of their joy at deliverance, we too, eat a communal meal and celebrate Hashem’s deliverance from slavery in Egypt. And if you think about it these same four threats were present in the Exodus story. We were imprisoned in Egypt and cried out to Hashem. We faced death and illness when Paro killed the baby boys and the many plagues visited upon Egypt. We traveled by sea, when we passed through the Red Sea where the walls of water could have come crashing down on us, and we wandered through the desert towards Mount Sinai.
It is interesting to note that in some communities Psalm 107, so deeply connected to the Korban Todah, is recited as the daily psalm on Pesach.
But there is one point of difference. Do you see it? At Passover we only eat matzah, but the Korban Todah requires both matzah and leavened bread. So where’s the leavened bread? Some suggest that this is the cause of the 4 questions. “Why on this night do we eat only unleavened bread when on other nights we may eat either leavened or unleavened bread?” It may be that this connection to the Korban Todah was known and hence the question.
Well the answer given is that Passover only celebrates the beginning of our redemption. At that point in the story, we were still imprisoned in Egypt, we still had to face the Red Sea and death at the hands of Paro’s army. We yet had to work our way through the wilderness with all of its deprivations and dangers. So we eat only matzah.
So when do we eat leavened bread? The answer is given later in Vayikra. It says, ““‘From the day after the Sabbath [Day after Pesach], the day you brought the sheaf of the wave offering, count off seven full weeks. Count off fifty days up to the day after the seventh Sabbath, and then present an offering of new grain to the Lord. From wherever you live, bring two loaves made of two-tenths of an ephah of the finest flour, baked with leaven, as a wave offering of firstfruits to Adonai.’” (Lev. 23:10-17)
This is Shavuot. By tradition, it was on Shavuot that we received the Torah at Mt. Sinai. This is the day in which the fullness of our redemption is realized and thus we bring the leaven bread of joyous celebration rather than the bread of affliction. Passover was the beginning of our redemption and Shavuot was its culmination.
But I’d like to submit to you that we are yet awaiting the fullness of redemption. I propose that Hashem really began redemption with His summoning of Avraham out of Ur, establishing him as the father of a new people, with a special calling. The redemption from Egypt was a continuation of His act of redemption. Redemption found a new zenith with Yeshua’s Exodus as he died for the sins of Israel and the whole world, and was raised into resurrection glory. His salvation was fourfold like that of the four reasons for bringing a Korban Todah. He saved us from our prisons of sin. He saved us from the ultimate death; spiritual death. He overcame the watery forces of chaos and brings us through as well in our immersion in him. And he leads us out of the wilderness of our own egos, faults, and failings as he transforms us into Hashem’s image.
And yet that was not the ultimate redemption. We await his return. And so we eat our matzah each year and look for Eliyahu hoping that it comes this year. And each year we sing L’shanah Haba'ah, looking forward to that Day when we will dwell with our Messiah, our Passover Lamb, in the New Yerushalayim, which itself is the Holy of Holies, containing the ultimate loaves of bread, the Showbread of Eternity.
As we enter into this Pesach week, and we sit around our tables (or this year around our computers) may we meditate upon the fact that our Seders are a Korban Todah. May we celebrate the bounty that Hashem has accorded us in saving our people from slavery in Egypt and in many other dangerous straights over the centuries. And in the many we ways that we have faced our own personal deserts, seas, illness and prison. And may we sing L’shanah Haba'ah with gusto as we look forward to that ultimate redemption where we will celebrate that ultimate Seder led by Messiah Yeshua!