Rabbi Thomas A. Louchheim
This Torah portion provides the instructions on five types of sacrifices to be offered in the Tabernacle for God. The Hebrew word, korban, literally meaning, “bring near" is most often translated as a “sacrifice” or an “offering.” In English these are two different things. A “sacrifice” is something you give up for God or for some greater good. An “offering” is a contribution, a gift, a presentation made to God or another person. For the modern reader (you all qualify), bringing an “offering” would seem to be a more “whole-hearted” gift.
The zevach sh'lamim, the “thanksgiving offering” or “well-being offering” is distinctive in that after the person brings this sacrifice, a festive meal is eaten by him and his guests after the prescribed portion has been offered on the altar and a share has been given to the priests. The name of the offering has been of some interest to scholars. Zevach means “slaughter” and sh'lamim is associated with the word shalom, “peace.” So, the sacrifice has been connected to the broadest sense of “wholeness, happiness, health.” On the other hand, we might want to connect this to the same root shlm (shin/lamed/mem), meaning “to repay, make good.” Rashbam (c. 1085 – c. 1158) seems to connect these two ideas by commenting that everyone’s well-being is increased by such a sacrifice: the sacrificial parts go to God, the breast and thigh to the priests and the rest of the meat is eaten by the one who brought the sacrifice.
Friends, we live in a world where we are always in relationship with others. Our own happiness and well-being is often tied to how others relate to us and we to them. This offering by which we benefit is shared with God and with others around us. For those of you who are in a constant state of balance, well-being and happiness, and are at one with God in all manners of your spiritual being, “mazel tov” to you! For most of us however there is some reconciliation to do (sometimes on a daily basis).
The goal of this offering is to renew one’s sense of inner “peace.” This is the one that returns to us our sense of balance. When you feel you are falling to pieces you can experience a sense of renewal, reaffirmation and reconnection. Often, when your world seems to be falling apart around you, the best solution is to bring yourself to God and to others. The sharing will renew you and bring you back into balance. Also, when we allow others to share, to help bring us back to completeness, we allow them to do their sacred duty of healing our souls, r'fuah sh'leimah (same root, by the way – shlm).