Gratitude Loves Company
Tzav (Leviticus 6-8 )
This week's Torah portion describes the Thanksgiving offering (korban todah) that is brought by one who emerged unscathed from a particularly precarious situation. (Specifically, the Talmud mentions: one who recovered from a serious illness; one who was released from prison; and those who survived a voyage through the high seas or the vast desert). This particular sacrifice is unique in two respects that, collectively, convey an important message pertinent to these special days leading up to Passover.
First, the Thanksgiving offering was accompanied with 40 loaves of bread. Second, unlike most sacrifices, these breads needed to be consumed within a 24-hour period (if not less). Now, one need not be a nutritionist to understand that even the hungriest of fellows on the most robust high-carb diet isn't going to consume 40 loaves overnight. What's the answer?
Pull out your contacts list, send out the email blast and invite your closest comrades, clients and third-cousins twice-removed to an elaborate and sumptuous repast.
Okay - so we spared ourselves a ton of leftovers; but obviously, the Torah is aiming for much more than mere "loaf"-ing around and hob-knobbing at a sophisticated cocktail party. The focal point is not what is being served nor who is invited, but rather the venue that it creates for the host to give over his tale of salvation, his personal in-living-color story of the glory of God Who bailed him out of such dire straits. When an individual is brimming with gratitude, the Torah orchestrates a fitting platform via which one's personal thanks to God can be shared en masse and thereby inspire others to similarly perceive the kindliness and compassion of God in their own lives.
We find this notion in several other contexts. One can discharge his duty to hear the Megillas Esther within the comfortable confines of our own living room. There is no requirement per se for one to discharge that mitzvah in shul. Nevertheless, the halacha clearly states that one should endeavor to hear the Megillah in the venue with the largest capacity. To the extent that Megillah constitutes a tour de force testament to God's love and dedication to the Jewish People - and our corresponding love and dedication to God - it is most fitting that it be shared with as many of our brothers and sisters as possible. Along similar lines, the Mishna Berurah writes (695:9) that one should invite friends and family to the festive Purim meal because it is "impossible to celebrate properly in isolation."
In his classic explanation of the fundamental tenets of Judaism, the Ramban explains "the purpose of shul and the merit of davening with a minyan is this: that people should have a place where they can gather and acknowledge to God that He created them and caused them to be, and where they can publicize this and declare before God, 'We are Your creations!'" (Shemos 13:16). Can one pray at home? For sure. Can one have faith in their Volvo? Undoubtedly. Nevertheless, there is a remarkable and incalculable "strength in numbers." For when we share life and more than that - when we share the tangible presence of God in our life - with others, our own convictions stand to be more meaningful and more empowering.