This week’s sedra includes the thanksgiving offering (korban todah) performed by resident Kohanim. It was brought on four occasions: after crossing an ocean, surviving a perilous journey, being released from prison or recovering from serious illness.
As we no longer have Temple sacrifices, rabbis of the Talmud instituted reciting the HaGomel prayer instead. In modern times, the parameters were expanded to include air travel as well as childbirth.
The Torah’s thanksgiving offering was accompanied by 40 loaves of bread, four of which were given to the Kohen for private use, with the remainder shared by family and friends. Perhaps this is the origin for our synagogue Kiddush nosh.
The general custom to recite the Gomel blessing in the presence of
a minyan applies to women as well as men. Ideally, it would be said within three days of the incident but, if necessary, can be postponed for 30 days until a minyan is found.
Curiously, while meat from a peace offering (korban shelamim) could be consumed over the course of two days, Thanksgiving offerings, a sub-category of shelamim, had to be eaten the same day.
Miracles sustain our lives constantly, although we sometimes fail to notice them. By limiting the todah eating period, the Torah reminds us to focus on living ‘one day at a time’.
Of recent there is also a custom of giving extra tzedakah after emerging from danger. In light of the struggle charities will have this year, perhaps this, too, is a lesson to take from Tsav. We will emerge from the pandemic at some point. Tragically, it has already claimed too many lives. Yet, thankfully, many who had the virus have recovered.
May we again be worthy of offering our HaGomel prayers and Kiddushim in synagogues around the world.
u Rabbi Jeff Berger is Interfaith advisor for Mitzvah Day and can be contacted at Rabbi JeffLondon@gmail.com