March 24, 2016
In this weeks Sedra, Abarbanel explains the purpose of the peace offerings ( shelomim).
“This is the law of the feast peace-offering…If he shall offer it for a thanksgiving offering, he shall offer with the feast thanksgiving offering unleavened loaves mixed with oil, unleavened wafers smeared with oil, and loaves of scalded fine flour mixed with oil.
With loaves of leavened bread he shall bring his offering, with his feast thanksgiving peace-offering.
From it he shall offer one from each kind of offering, a portion to G-d; it shall belong to the kohen who throws the blood of the peace-offering.
And the meat…must be eaten on the day of its offering…If his feast-offering is for a vow or a donation, it must be eaten on the day he offered his feast-offering; and on the next day, what is left over may be eaten…(Leviticus 7:11-16)
There are two types of peace-offerings.
The first is referred to as the thanksgiving offering. Here, individuals are thanking G-d for what He has done for the Jewish nation, such as giving us the Land of Israel and intervening miraculously throughout our history.
The other is referred to as a vow, or a donation. Here, G-d is being asked to intervene on one’s behalf for his benefit.
The first type refers to gratitude for the past while the second refers to asking G-d for His assistance and blessings in the future.
To express gratitude, the individual prepares a festive meal along with the offering.
The animal’s innards are burnt on the altar and are considered symbolic of the individual’s thoughts.
A portion is then given to the kohanim, who also thank G-d for the blessings that they have received as well.
If it is an offering as a prayer for future blessings, the kohanim also participate in asking for future blessings. Once the kohanim have received their share, those who brought the offering have a right to their share.
The peace-offerings are comprised of cattle, sheep or goats, as well as the finest wheat flour, olive oil and wine, which are the finest of the liquids. All of these are connected to the special bounty of the Land of Israel which is dependent on G-d’s blessing.
The kohanim receive the meat from the chest and legs, which are considered the choicest parts of the animal. The joyous nature of these offerings is also indicated by the other foods that accompany them, such as the loaves of leavened bread.
These additional items are not mentioned in regard to the vow or donation offerings, which were intended to beseech G-d for future blessings, as rejoicing over past blessings is very different from requesting the continuation of these blessings in the future.