In Parshat Tzav, among all of the korbanot that are being introduced to us a second time, one stands out:
אִם עַל-תּוֹדָה, יַקְרִיבֶנּוּ–וְהִקְרִיב עַל-זֶבַח הַתּוֹדָה חַלּוֹת מַצּוֹת בְּלוּלֹת בַּשֶּׁמֶן, וּרְקִיקֵי מַצּוֹת מְשֻׁחִים בַּשָּׁמֶן; וְסֹלֶת מֻרְבֶּכֶת, חַלֹּת בְּלוּלֹת בַּשָּׁמֶן. עַל-חַלֹּת לֶחֶם חָמֵץ, יַקְרִיב קָרְבָּנוֹ, עַל-זֶבַח, תּוֹדַת שְׁלָמָיו. וְהִקְרִיב מִמֶּנּוּ אֶחָד מִכָּל-קָרְבָּן, תְּרוּמָה לַיהוָה; לַכֹּהֵן, הַזֹּרֵק אֶת-דַּם הַשְּׁלָמִים–לוֹ יִהְיֶה. וּבְשַׂר, זֶבַח תּוֹדַת שְׁלָמָיו–בְּיוֹם קָרְבָּנוֹ, יֵאָכֵל: לֹא-יַנִּיחַ מִמֶּנּוּ, עַד-בֹּקֶר.
If for thanksgiving the korban is brought, then he shall offer it with a Thanksgiving offering… (ויקרא ז:יא)
Most of the details that follow are technical, discussing how the korban should be brought. What is not mentioned, and left to later generations, however, is when this thanksgiving offering should be brought. The Gemara (ברכות נד.) teaches, based on David’s תהילים ק”ז, that this קרבן is generally brought in four situations: after surviving a desert journey, a sea voyage, serious illness, or a dangerous imprisonment- this is the basis for our modern-day ברכת הגומל in place of the aforementioned offering.
All of the technical details aside, the Gemara elsewhere (פסחים נ:) writes a very interesting teaching about the קרבן תודה, and by extension, thanking G-d:
אמר רבי אחא בר חנינא: לא כעולם הזה העולם הבא; העולם הזה, על בשורות טובות אומר ברוך הטוב והמטיב, ועל בשורות רעות אומר ברוך דיין האמת. לעולם הבא – כולו הטוב והמטיב
R’ Acha ibn Chanina said: The World to Come is not like our world: In our world, on good news, we say “ברוך הטוב והמטיב” and on bad news we say “ברוך דיין האמת.” In the World to Come, we will recognize everything as “הטוב והמטיב.”
In the midst of a deep discussion about the post-messianic future, an interesting detail emerges- after the Geulah, there will be no more acknowledging G-d for bad experiences, because we will see everything as good. It is because of this that Chazal teach that with the coming of משיח, all of the קרבנות will be cancelled… except for the קרבן תודה. Why? Because, as is taught in this Gemara, everyone will have reached a higher level of יראת שמים that they will be able to see that when bad things happen, they are for good- so good, that there will be no need to say a blessing thanking G-d for bad news, because we will see everything as obviously good.
This requires a little bit of thought. Granted, by all Rabbinic figures, ימות המשיח will be very special. At the very least, we will all be in Eretz Yisrael under Jewish leadership, with the third Bet Hamikdash, and G-d’s Shechina revealed for the world. But, things will still go wrong- how can a few “small changes” cancel out potential future tragedies?
By looking at two small sections from Rav Teichtel’s אם הבנים שמחה, I believe we will find an answer not only to our question about the (hopefully near) future, but also an important lesson for our time as well:
In the second chapter of אם הבנים שמחה, Rav Teichtel discusses the process of קיבוץ גליות, Jews returning to Eretz Yisrael, and the experiences that they may face in the Diaspora immediately before the ingathering. He quotes the following teaching of the מגן אברהם, Rav Avraham Halevi of Gombin, in his זית רענן commentary on ילקוט שמעוני:
… על מה שאמר ר’ נתן: “לאוהבי ולשומרי מצוותי”-אלו שהן יושבים בארץ ישראל. וכתב רבנו ה’מגן אברהם’ על זה וזה לשונו: “אלו שהן יושבים בארץ ישראל- שבארץ ישראל היו גזרות קשות, והיו יכולים לברוח לחוץ לארץ, ואפילו הכי מסרו עצמם על ישיבת ארץ ישראל. מה שאין כן היושב בחוץ לארץ, במקום הגזירות הקשות- מתחייב בנפשו דלא אזיל למדינה אחרת,” עד כאן לשון בעל ‘זית רענן
On that which R’ Natan said “To those who love Me and keep My Mitzvot” (from the Second Commandment)- these are those who live in Eretz Yisrael. The author of the ‘Magen Avraham’ writes on this: “These are those who live in Eretz Yisrael”- for in Eretz Yisrael if one faces tough decrees and an ability to escape them to the Diaspora, but nonetheless forgoes this to fulfill the settlement of Eretz Yisrael. On the other hand, one who live in the Diaspora, where there are difficult decrees- if he stays there, he is sentencing himself to these difficult decrees if he doesn’t leave… (אם הבנים שמחה פרק ב, אות ה)
This teaching from the Second Commandment is twofold. If a Jew finds himself in the Diaspora where there are גזרות קשות (Rav Teichtel unfortunately had too much experience with this), he or she has an obligation to leave before he or she is too damaged by these decrees. But, in Eretz Yisrael, this is not true. If there are גזרות קשות, a Jew is not only obligated to stay- he must cooperate, for he can only become a true אוהב השם and שומר מצות if he goes through this מסירות נפש. It isn’t inconceivable to say that one who faces גזרות קשות in Eretz Yisrael and leaves, or refuses to cooperate, is in fact not a true ירא שמים.
Rav Teichtel continues with a quote from Rav Yehuda Halevi’s ספר הכוזרי:
וזה לשון הכוזרי… אם כן, אתה מקצר חובת בוראך, שאין אתה משים מגמתך אל המקום הזה, אתה אומר ‘רחם על ציון כי היא בית חיינו’, ותאמין כי השכינה שבה אליה, והיה מן הדין שתכסופנה הנפשות היקרות לחזור בה, וכבר היו אבותינו הראשונים בוחרים לדור בה יותר ממה שהיו אזרחים במקומותם, הדם שלא היה בעת ההיא נראית השכינה בה, אבל היתה מלאה זמה, ועם כל זה לא היה להם תאוה כי אם לעמוד בה, עד כאן לשונו. הרי דאיש אלקי זה אומר בפירוש, דאף אם תהיה, חס ושלום, ארץ ישראל מלאה בזמה, מוטב לדור בה מלדור בזולתה. וזה יהיה מוסר השכל לאלו מתחסדים בזמנינו, ומציאים דבה על ישיבת הארץ מטעם שאין די כשר להם.
And these are the words of the Kuzari: “If so, one shortens the requirement of his creator, for he puts his [evil] tendencies on this [holy] place, and you say “Have mercy on Zion, your dwelling place” with complete faith that the Shechina can dwell there… but now that it is full of lewdness, you have no desire to stand in that place?!”[Rav Teichtel continues:] Rav Yehuda Halevi explicitly says, that even if Eretz Yisrael ever, G-d forbid, became full of lewdness, it is better to well there (in this state) than anywhere else. And this is important mussar for those who are too righteous in our times, and say bad things about yishuv ha’aretz because it isn’t ‘Kosher’ enough for them. (שם)
What emerges are two different worst-case scenarios for living in Eretz Yisrael; there could be harsh decrees, there could be inappropriateness and lewdness, but these two well-accepted sources spell out our responsibility. We must cooperate with the גזרות קשות, we must live with the זמה around us, for only the true אוהבי השם and שומרי מצות are the ones who can put their faith and dedication to the challenge. If one decides that he is “too frum” for G-d’s Holy Land or His chosen government, the אתחלתא דגאולה, then what does that say about him? Is he really holier than G-d?
This past Sunday, over 50,000 Jews gathered in Downtown Manhattan for “Atzeres Tefilah” to mirror the one that their Israel-based counterparts organized the week before. As with the one in Jerusalem, the gathered may have claimed to be together to pray, but in truth, their agenda was to protest the Israeli government’s changed Hareidi draft terms. While I will not delve into the Pandora’s Box that is this controversial issue, there was something seriously wrong with both of these protests. The hundreds of thousands gathered in Jerusalem and the tens of thousands gathered in New York protested on the basis that they are יראי שמים. They claimed that, representing the interests of the Torah world, they needed to speak out against the גזירה רעה by the perceived Anti-Religious Israeli government, one which they believe is full of זמה. Putting aside the extensive discussion of whether or not this is true, based on what we’ve seen above, I take almost no pleasure in telling these so-called G-d Fearing Jews; “tough nooggies.” ספר הכוזרי and the מגן אברהם, both mainstream sources in all of Observant Judaism, make it clear that in a scary situation in Israel where lewdness is rampant and there are evil decrees against the Jews, the true יראי השם are not the ones who complain- they are the ones who power their עבודת השם through the מסירות נפש, the sacrifice, that one makes by remaining an observant Jew in this situation. Anything less than this, aside from not truly representing G-d’s Will, shows a pattern of laziness to put their so-called Torah observance to the test. In essence, any one of the approximately 1,050,000 Jews who showed up at a protest to complain both to G-d and His creations about the challenge that they’ve been served, is not truly G-d-fearing or Mitzva-Observant.
(To those particularly vocal Jews who made a cameo at the “Atzeres Tefillah” in Manhattan, I would remind you of the story of the מרגלים, which makes it very clear how G-d feels about those who speak לשון הרע against His Promised Land and those who live in it and run it- the Torah has already revealed to us how stories like this end.)
This idea gives a new spin on the קרבן תודה. Why is it that in ימות המשיח, the קרבן תודה will still be offered? Because everything will be obviously done for the best by our Creator- we will truly be set, with independence in our land, and obvious השראת השכינה. Even though we have not yet reached the גאולה שלמה, we are not exempt from this process of thanksgiving as well. Contrary to what many of the aforementioned would believe, Eretz Yisrael, for the first time in two thousand years, is under Jewish leadership. There has been a drastic reduction in the so-called “זמה,” as the religious influence of the Jewish people has been affecting the Israeli culture. The government has been supporting the weak economy that is the Avreich/Kollel system since its inception, and that is not a debt that should be forgotten the moment there is a call by Gedolei Yisrael to hold a protest/”Atzeres Tefillah.” Though many of the Hareidi leaders may not want to acknowledge it, things have truly improved for the Jewish people since the time of Rav Teichtel, when six million of our brothers (הי”ד) were slaughtered in Europe.
We should be gathering in large groups to call out to G-d, but not in protest- rather in Thanksgiving. We should thank Him for the unique opportunities for growth that the Jewish state has given the Torah world. We should thank Him for giving us a country where the ever-growing זמה can be controlled. Even if we don’t believe the last two statements, we should at the very least thank Him for the opportunity to prove our allegiance to Him through מסירות נפש, for otherwise, how can we truly call ourselves שומרי תורה ומצות? We definitely should not be crying out to Him, begging G-d to undermine the very country and government that supports the growth of Torah.
With Hashem’s help, we will see all of the Jewish People come to their senses and call out to G-d in thanksgiving, so that, with their imminent move to ארצינו הקדושה, we will merit to bring a קרבן תודה again in the new and improved third בית המקדש, very speedily in our days.