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Vayikra/Leviticus 7:15 And the flesh of the sacrifice of thanksgiving of his peace-offering shall be eaten on the day of his offering; he shall not leave any of it until morning.
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The , thanksgiving offering, is one of the class of offerings known as the , peace or well-being offerings. They are unlike the other offerings, in that they are entirely voluntary; they are not prompted by an omission or a transgression and neither are they a commanded offering1. The early rabbis valued these offerings: "Rabbi Judah said: Whoever brings peace-offerings brings peace into the world. Another speaker added: Peace offerings bring 'peace' for all parties: the blood and inward parts, for the altar; the breast and shoulder -- for the priests; the skin and meat -- for the owners" (Sifra 156 to Vayikra 3:1). This particular command - to eat the meat of the thanksgiving offering in the day when it is offered - is repeated a few chapters later: "And when you sacrifice a sacrifice of thanksgiving to the L-RD, you shall sacrifice it so that you may be accepted. It shall be eaten on the same day; you shall leave none of it until morning: I am the L-RD" (Vayikra 22:29-30, ESV).
From that common point, the commentators diverge in their opinion about this commandment, focusing on three main themes: holiness, faith and witness. The holiness theme sees the thanksgiving offering as one in a series of offerings - from the burnt offering downwards - having different levels of holiness.Maimonides explains, "Of the burnt offering, which is entirely devoted to HaShem, nothing at all was eaten. Sin and guilt offerings must be eaten within the court of the Sanctuary and only on their day of slaughter, while peace offerings, which are next in sanctity, being sacrifices of second degree, may be eaten in the whole of Jerusalem, on the day they have been offered (for thank offerings) and the day after (for vowed and freewill offerings)" (Guide for the Perplexed, 3:46). Plaut confirms: "the sin offering is 'most holy' and may only be eaten by male priests within the precincts of the sanctuary. Peace offerings, referred to as 'holy', which are of lesser sanctity, may be eaten by men or women, priests or non-priests, anywhere within the camp. The thanksgiving peace-offering must be eaten on the day of sacrifice (v. 15), while other peace offerings may be eaten on the [one] following day (v. 16)." This argument is bolstered by additional restrictions on who could eat the thanksgiving offering; Ibn Ezra gave one - "by the one who brings the offering, his household,and anyone else who is ritually pure - for sacrifices of well-being are holy as well, albeit with a lesser degree of sanctity" - while Maimonides not only gives a list of conditions, but suggests the motive involved: "The Torah wanted the Israelites to show proper respect to the sacrifices. Therefore the Torah mandated certain restrictions to diminish over-familiarity: the sacrifices should only be eaten in a state of ritual purity, one who was uncircumcised could not eat it, it could not be consumed if it were left after a certain time period or an improper intention had been conceived, and it had to be eaten in a particular place" (Guide 3:46 as above).
Focusing on the theme of faith,Sefer HaChinuch offers an alternative explanation for the commandment: "This is an allusion to our trust in G-d; a man should not begrudge himself his food and store it for the morrow, seeing that G-d commanded to utterly destroy sanctified meat after its time, when no creature - man or beast - is allowed to partake of it." (#143). This idea is supported by Nechama Leibowitz who connects the eating of the thanksgiving offering with the manna with which G-d fed our people in the wilderness: "It was forbidden to keep the manna - that came down miraculously from heaven - for the following day, in order for the children of Israel to trust in G-d" and she brings a quotation from the Talmud to show that this was also the opinion of the Rabbis: "The Sages declare: He who has bread in his basket and says, 'What will I eat tomorrow?' has little faith in G-d" (b. Sotah 48b).
The third theme, witness, is expounded by Don IsaacAbravanel: "The purpose of this law is to publicise the miracle [for which thanks is being given]. Seeing that he has only one day and one night for consuming his sacrifice, the owner invites his relatives and friends to share his meal and joy. On being asked what motivated this feast, the host will recount the Divine wonders. Perhaps if the time for consuming thanks-giving peace-offerings were two days, as for other peace-offerings, the owner would not invite anyone. But having an abundance of meat and bread in the house, and only one day in which to eat it he will certainly invite many friends to share it, lest they despise him the next morning when they see him burning large quantities of the residue of his offering." Confirmation comes from Rabbi Naftali Tzi Yehudah Berlin, the Netziv, who says that the peace offering builds community because one is required to share it with one's neighbors. He writes: "... sharing the meal of the thanksgiving offering with numerous guests will serve as an occasion for the public acknowledgment of God's providential lovingkindess" (Commentary on Psalm 116:17-19).
Yeshua consistently calls His disciples to a higher standard of holiness than the people around them. The phrase "You have head ... but I say to you ..." is repeated through the Sermon on the Mount, while when asked about divorce, Yeshua replied, "Moshe allowed you to divorce your wives because your hearts are so hardened. But this is not how it was at the beginning. Now what I say to you is that whoever divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery!" (Matthew 19:8-9, CJB). During the Last Supper, Yeshua prayed for the disciples that the Father would "Set them apart for holiness by means of the truth - Your word is truth" (John 17:17, CJB). We are called to be separate and different from the world, aware of the holiness that is in us and letting it be seen by others. This has to be an intentional choice that we take - to be holy - in the same way that Yeshua Himself chose: "On their behalf I am setting Myself apart for holiness, so that they too may be set apart for holiness by means of the truth" (v. 19, CJB).
Yeshua also spoke directly to the theme of faith. Teaching the disciples, He said, "Don't be anxious, asking, 'What will we eat?,' 'What will we drink?' or 'How will we be clothed?' For it is the pagans who set their hearts on all these things. Your heavenly Father knows you need them all. But seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well" (Matthew 6:31-33, CJB), clearly setting a standard for the believers and moving their focus off daily material provision and on to the priorities of the kingdom: growth, righteousness and proclamation. If they had all these, then the mechanical issues of food, drink and clothing become routine opportunities for G-d to prove His faithfulness in the background while the disciples carry out G-d's front-line business: sharing the good news of the kingdom.
The early church demonstrated the theme of witness, as the book of Acts make clear: "They continued faithfully in the teaching of the emissaries, in fellowship, in breaking bread and in the prayers. Everyone was filled with awe, and many miracles and signs took place through the emissaries. All those trusting in Yeshua stayed together and had everything in common; in fact, they sold their property and possessions and distributed the proceeds to all who were in need. Continuing faithfully and with singleness of purpose to meet in the Temple courts daily, and breaking bread in their several homes, they shared their food in joy and simplicity of heart, praising G-d and having the respect of all the people. And day after day the L-rd kept adding to them those who were being saved" (Acts 2:42-47, CJB). Community was built as the disciples gave thanks and shared their meals and lives together. Many were added to their number as the witness of new life in Yeshua was made tangible in the sharing and worship. Critically, the text reports that the witness was received with favour by the people, who recognised that something old - tradition and Jewish life - had been preserved while being infused with new life and enthusiasm. Yeshua calls us too to that mix: "every Torah-teacher who has been made into a talmid for the Kingdom of Heaven is like the owner of a home who brings out of his storage room both new things and old" (Matthew 13:52, CJB).
1. - such as the daily offerings or the special festival offerings
Further Study: Ecclesiastes 9:10; John 9:4; Hebrews 3:13-14
Application: When people look at you, what do they see? Are you fresh and ready to go today, or are you like yesterday's left-overs? It's time to clean up and look like the thank-offering we are in Yeshua!
© Jonathan Allen, 2013
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