Photo Credit: Asher Schwartz

Parshat Tzav is one of my favorite parshiyot, not only because it is my bar mitzvah parsha, but also because it largely deals with the different Menachot offerings brought in the Beit HaMikdash, my pet subject.

It is customary to commence studying the halachot of an impending chag at least 30 days prior so that we arrive at the festival well prepared. We learn this from Megillat Esther. When Achashveirosh ordered Haman to dress Mordechai in royal garb and ceremoniously parade him through the streets of Shushan, Haman went looking for Mordechai and found him in the Beit HaMidrash. What was the subject under discussion? Hilchot Kemitzah, the method of measuring flour and levonah for the Menachot, grasping a partial handful with the three middle fingers of the hand and leveling it off on both ends with thumb and pinky fingers.


Why were they specifically studying this subject? The story of Purim took place around Pesach time (When Esther told everyone to fast, it was actually on the night of the Pesach seder – they cancelled the seder that year and fasted, praying for salvation). Mordechai was teaching his students Hilchot Kemitzah in preparation for the impending festival of Pesach and bringing the Omer offering. Even though the Mikdash had been destroyed almost 70 years prior, they were still keeping it alive through learning. Perhaps this is why they merited its rebuilding so soon after.

So in the spirit of preparing for Pesach, I would like to focus in this shiur on one of the topics mentioned in our parsha – the Korban Toda, the Thanksgiving Offering. The Gemara (Brachot 54b) lists four categories of people who are obligated to bring a Korban Toda. Someone who has returned safely from a sea voyage, someone who has safely returned from a journey in the desert, someone who has recovered from a serious illness and finally someone who was imprisoned and set free (the contemporary form of this Korban, since we do not have the Beit HaMikdash – is Birkat Hagomel).

What does the Korban Toda have to do with Pesach you may ask? The Mefarshim explain that the Pesach Seder is actually intricately connected to the Korban Toda, as we will soon see.

This unique Korban is part of the category of Korbanot called Shlamim, which Chazal say are HKB”H’s favorite Korbanot, because they are not offered to atone for a sin, but rather to praise and thank Hashem – they have no ulterior motive.

The Korban Toda consists of an animal component and a bread component. I would like to discuss the bread aspect because it is very unique among the Menachot by virtue of its huge volume of bread. There are four types of breads in the Korban Toda, three types of matzo and one type of chametz bread. Of each type there were 10 matzos/breads, making a sum total of 40 breads! In our institute we have actually replicated the breads of the Korban Toda and I can tell you – it is a lot of bread!

The huge volume of the bread (and meat) in the Korban is by design. Unlike the other Korbanot which are intended to be eaten by a few people, the Korban Toda intentionally has a lot of food – to involve a huge crowd, who all partake of this feast – Seudat Hodaya. While they are participating, the person who brings the Korban relates the circumstances of his/her encounter and subsequently publicizes the miracle (Pirsumei Nisa).

The Mefarshim (the Rosh and others) say that many aspects of the Pesach Seder reflect the Korban Toda.

For example – we eat three matzos in the seder, reminiscent of the three types of matzo in the Toda.

The first of the Four Questions is also related to this. “Why on all other nights do we eat chametz and matzo and tonight we only eat matzo?” We tend to think of the Four Questions as questions asked by a child, but as we will soon see, this question is not the question of a child, but a Talmid Chacham!

How many people do you know during the year (not on Pesach) who eat both chametz AND matzo? I know very few who enjoy matzo year round. Most people can’t wait for Pesach to end, to get rid of all their leftover matzo. In our bakery, on Motzei Pesach we have people queuing just to buy chametz as soon as possible after Pesach. So what kind of question is this? “on all other nights we eat chametz and matzo?” Who eats chametz AND matzo not on Pesach?

In fact the question is regarding the Korban Toda. On all “other nights” during the year, the Korban Toda is brought with a matzo component (three types of matzo) AND a chametz bread component. However on Pesach it is only matzo – not the chametz bread (for obvious reasons). If the purpose of the matzos on Pesach is reminiscent of a Korban Toda, then where is the chametz bread? Now isn’t that the question of a Talmid Chacham?

Why is there a connection between the Korban Toda and the Pesach Seder in the first place?

If we remember the four categories of people who have to bring a Korban Toda, they exactly match Am Yisrael leaving Egypt! Someone who safely crosses the sea? Someone who survives a journey in the desert (40 years)? Someone who was ill and recovered? (Hashem cured all Am Yisrael’s ailments before Matan Torah). Someone who was imprisoned (slavery in Egypt) and was released? Am Yisrael directly fit into the category of someone who has to bring a Korban Toda and in fact the Pesach Seder IS the Korban Toda, with one minor variation – the missing chametz bread (hence the question).

So what is the answer to the Talmid Chacham’s question – Why is there no chametz bread to complete the Korban Toda on Pesach? Obviously – because we are forbidden to eat chametz on Pesach, but it is deeper than that. The purpose of the chametz bread, according to the Sfat Emet, is to reflect the hidden aspect of the miracle. Each miracle has a visible and hidden component. As chametz works invisibly in the dough, so too is there a hidden aspect of the miracle, not visible to the naked eye. Matzo has no hidden components, only visible ones, simple flour and water – nothing is hidden. When celebrating a private miracle, you must bring both types of bread to acknowledge both these aspects. However, when Am Yisrael left Egypt – there no was hidden component, only visible, supernatural miracles, therefore the chametz bread is superfluous!

Parshat Hashavua Trivia Question: Which bread of the Korban Toda was boiled and then baked?

Answer to Last Week’s Trivia Question: The Kemitzah (explained above) is synonymous with the Hebrew vowel Kamatz.

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Eliezer Meir Saidel ([email protected]) is Managing Director of research institute Machon Lechem Hapanim and owner of the Jewish Baking Center which researches and bakes traditional Jewish historical and contemporary bread. His sefer “Meir Panim” is the first book dedicated entirely to the subject of the Lechem Hapanim.