Shabbat-Table Talks: Parashat Sav

By Rabbi Ralph Tawil

[This week's Table Talks is dedicated in memory of Joseph and Esther Shamah.]

Value: Feeling and expressing gratitude. The first chapters of the book of Vayiqra describe the different kinds of sacrificial offerings, a subject that is foreign to most of us. However, there are still some very important lessons that we can learn from the laws of the sacrificial offerings. One of them has to do with the details of the laws concerning the Qorban Todah, the offering of gratitude (explain the word for younger children).

Teaching our children to be appreciative and grateful is very important for their character. It makes them aware of the abundance that is available for them. It can cure them of the tendency to nag for more. Don’t preach. Telling your child "say thank you" doesn’t really inspire in them the feeling of gratitude. It just teaches them a "magic word." Rather, teach by example. Feel appreciation and express it constantly. Let your kids hear you saying thank you to your spouse for what they do for the family. "Thank you for preparing a delicious meal for Shabbat." Thank you for providing for our family and making us secure." By the way, it is a good idea to thank your spouse even when the kids are not listening!

Discussion: Ask your children: If someone gives you something what do you say? (Answer: Thank you.) [Remember, start with an easy question to get the discussion going.] Why should you say thank you? [This is a bit more difficult. Answers like—"so the person will give you another gift etc." are opportunistic and, without openly rejecting them, ask for more answers. The reason not to openly reject answers is that you don’t want the kids to feel that they are being judged on their answers. Rather, you want them to continue talking.] Some other answers: "Gratitude is a natural feeling that comes out, like a laugh; it is hard to keep in." "Gratitude makes the other person feel appreciated." "Saying thank you means that you have recognized and appreciated the gift."

Is it possible to get gifts and not recognize or appreciate it? (Yes. The gifts that are given to us daily, like air, water, our senses, time with our parents, spouses, children etc., another day of life.) How can we say thank you for these gifts? Tell the people that we are grateful for being able to spend time with them. Thank God in blessings and prayer.

Background and text: A long time ago if people really had to say thank you, they would want to let everyone know how they felt. They would want to tell Hashem about it, so they would go to the Bet Hamiqdash and bring a qorban. Let’s read what the Torah says about this qorban.

This is the ritual of the sacrifice of well-being that one may offer to Hashem: If he offers it for thanks, he shall offer together with the sacrifice of thanks, massah loaves with oil mixed in, pieces of massah with oil on top, and cakes of the best flour with oil mixed in, well soaked…And the meat of the sacrifice must be eaten on the day that it is offered; you cannot leave any of the meat until the morning. (Vayiqra 7:12-15)

The Rabbis of the Mishnah taught us that the person would bring thirty loaves of massot and ten loaves of bread. All these loaves, along with the meat of the sacrificed animal would have to be consumed in one evening (a shorter time than is normally allotted to eating a shelamim sacrifice.) Obviously, the person would invite other people to participate in this meal, giving him an opportunity to spread the word about the reason he is so thankful. This public show of appreciation would cause others to be aware of things for which they should be thankful. People would see God’s saving hand in everything they did.

In our time, we publicly show our thanks to Hashem for His miracles in two ways. We bless Birkat Hagomel and, for a particularly strong feeling of being saved by Hashem, we make a "seudat hodayah" ("meal of thanks.")

We say Birkat hagomel for four situations. These are analogous to the reasons for which the qorban todah was offered in the time of the Bet hamiqdash. The four reasons are: traveling through the desert, or on the ocean, recovering from being sick (bedridden), being let out of prison.

The blessing reads:

Blessed are You, Hashem, our God, King of the Universe, who bestows goodness upon the guilty, Who has bestowed every goodness upon me.

To which the congregation responds:

Amen. May the Almighty Who has bestowed goodness upon you, bestow every goodness upon you, forever.

Whom do you have to thank today? Parents, teacher, spouse, rabbi, friend, neighbor etc.

Activity: Circle of thanks

Choose one person at the table. Go around the table with everyone thanking him for something. Then choose the next person, until everyone has thanked everybody for something.

A recent popular Israeli song expresses gratitude for life's simple things. It is entitled "Todah al kol ma shebarata…" (Thank you for everything You created.) It has a beautifully simple melody as well:

Thanks for everything You created

Thanks for what you have given me

For the light of my eyes,

For a friend or two,

For what I have in the world.

For a flowing song, for a forgiving heart,

Because of these things, I exist.

Thanks for everything You created

Thanks for what you have given me

For the laughter of children,

For blue skies,

For the land and a warm home.

A corner to sit it, a loving wife

Because of these things, I exist.

Thanks for everything You created

Thanks for what you have given me

For a happy day, innocence and honesty,

For a sad day that disappeared

Because of these things, I exist.

It reads much better in Hebrew. If you want the Hebrew words let me know -


Shabbat Table Talks is a publication of the Sephardic Orthodox Union.