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Tzav 5783 - Zevah Shelamim and Eating Our Leftovers

Rabbi Yehudah said: Whoever brings shelamim (the peace/well-being offering) brings shalom (peace) into the world. ~Sifra 156

Last week, we learned about the olah offering and about giving of ourselves and expecting nothing in return. We also learned about the minhah offering and running to do a mitzvah. Today, we explore zevah shelamim, the offering of peace or well-being. Like the olah offering, zevah shelamim involves sacrificing an animal. The distinction here is that the offerer and their family are the ones who will consume their animal. But there’s a catch: if the offering is given for the purposes of thanksgiving, one must eat the offering on the day it is offered. If the offering is given for the sake of fulfilling a vow (i.e. If I get this job, I’ll bring a sacrifice) or for any other reason, then it must be eaten by the day after it is offered, or else the leftovers are burned. No single person can eat an entire ox or sheep in one or two days - the celebratory zevah shelamim must be shared. Even in a Judaism without animal sacrifice, we still have the opportunity to show our thanks to God by avoiding food waste and by inviting friends, family, and community to share food with us.

According to savethefood.com, in the United States today, up to 40% of food produced in the United States is not eaten. With food waste comes waste of water, land, and energy. Imagine, too, the difference the $218 billion dollars lost by consumers and producers to food waste could make if it was used to help provide food for those without enough to eat! According to Mazon, one in every eight Americans experience food insecurity. What does food waste say about our gratitude for the food God provides for us that so much of that food goes in the garbage, especially when so many members of God’s Creation go hungry each day?

​​ Today, our modern zevah shelamim can start with the not-so-simple act of buying only what we know we will eat. When we don’t end up eating it all, freeze it, or look up recipes for produce on the brink on savethefood.com, we can always call up a neighbor to finish it for us. As Pesah is coming up, and we need to clean out our hametz, I know I have some unopened bags of flour I can bring to the food bank, and I know our synagogue has a surplus of cookies to donate, too! We can also buy fruits and vegetables that look funny, as they are not likely to be bought and usually are just as tasty as the others, and we can learn more about which sell-by and use-by dates are actually important to follow. As the thanksgiving offering must be eaten in full, we, too, show our gratitude by finishing our leftovers!

We show our thanksgiving, too, by working towards a world in which no one goes hungry. By volunteering for our local food bank, carrying extra snacks in our car for those in need, or donating to more policy-driven organizations like Mazon, we acknowledge that no one is undeserving of sustenance. By giving our modern-day alternatives to zevah shlamim, we remember our commandment to leave the corners of our fields for those in need. When we can’t finish all of our food, we know there are many out there who can.

In just a few days, at our Passover seder, we will declare, “All who are hungry, come and eat!” In addition to asking everyone we can right now whether they have plans for Passover, and if not, would like to join ours, we can literally walk out onto the street on that seder night and invite our neighbors and passerbys to join. But that call of all who are hungry, come and eat, cannot end on Thursday night. As we must remember each and every day that we were slaves in Egypt, we must remember each and every day our responsibility for the continuity of our planet and its residents.

Thu, April 18 2024 10 Nisan 5784