We learned last week about the korban Todah, and how it is brought in certain specific situations when a person’s life is considered to have been in danger, and the person was saved through what we would call ‘normal’ or ‘natural’ means. We then raised the question that since our everyday lives contain reasons enough for hoda’ah (thankfulness), since we need to be constantly grateful for our very existence and for the countless daily miracles which are involved in just “living life” —what specifically happens when our lives are in danger and we emerge safely that induces one to bring a sacrifice? Moreover, our daily gratefulness for “normal” life is actually quite compelling. As the Chovos Halevavos explains, without Hashem we can do nothing. Thus, our gratitude and appreciation must encompass everything. All is a gift from Hashem. So what is it that triggers the korban Todah?
The Ramban at the end of Parshas Bo (Shemos 13:16) writes about the purpose of creation: “And that in fact is the ultimate objective of the Creation itself… for we have no other explanation of Creation… And Hashem has no desire from the earthbound creatures except that mankind shall know and acknowledge to Hashem that He (Hashem) created them. The purpose of raising one’s voice in prayer and the purpose of synagogues and the merit of communal prayer is this: that people should have a place where they can gather publicly and acknowledge to Hashem that He created them all and caused them to be, and where they can publicize this and declare before Him “We are Your creations!” This is the intent of our Sages in that which they said to explain the passuk ‘and they shall call out mightily to Hashem.’ From the use of the word mightily, we learn that prayer entails calling out in a loud voice (in other words, that part of prayer which is the acknowledgement of Hashem being our Creator).”
We learn from this Ramban that hoda’ah —acknowledgement, admission, of Hashem as the source of all— has an element that calls for public, even loud, pronouncement and acknowledgement. This is also reflected in the commentary of the Netziv to Vayikra (7:13). The Netziv points out a certain anomaly that seems to be unique to the korban Todah. The korban Todah is, after all, a form of shelamim. Why is it, then, that the time given for eating the Todah is less than the time given for any other shelamim? A shelamim may be eaten for two days and one night (i.e., the day that it is brought, the following night, and the next day), whereas the Todah may be eaten only the day on which it is brought and the following night. Even more puzzling is the fact that the Todah has entails much more food to eat than a standard shelamim. In addition to the korban Todah itself, one brings forty large loaves of bread with it (of which 36 are eaten by the owner of the korban and/or his guests and four are given to a Cohen). If anything, asks the Netziv, the time allowed for eating the Todah should be much longer than the standard shelamim (since we want to avoid leaving over from the korban, which would entail creating ‘nossar’).
The Netziv explains that the Torah specifically wanted this great potential for nossar to loom large in the case of the korban Todah. For this will bring the desired result that the owner of the korban will need to invite many guests to share in his se’udah —and that will result in a more public forum for the korban Todah, as the guests will inquire as to the reason for the large se’udah and the owner of the korban will surely tell his story, his hoda’ah, his thanksgiving and acknowledgement and the ness nistar that saved his life. This public acknowledgement is the reason that the Torah mandated eating the Todah within such a relatively short time —to ensure this public gathering, and thus, a more public hoda’ah.
This, says the Netziv, is quite possibly the reason that the halachah requires that the berachah of ‘Hagomel’ —recited upon any one the occurrences that would require the beneficiary to bring a korban Todah— be recited in front of ten people. The Netziv notes the irregularity of this requirement, since such a quorum is usually necessary only in the event that a ‘davar shebekedushah’ —such as kaddish or kedushah— is being said. Why is a minyan necessary here? The reason, says the Netziv, is to ensure that the ‘hidden miracle’ be publicized, just as it must be by the korban Todah itself, as we have seen above.
We find a private hoda’ah in our silent recitation of the shemoneh esrei, which features a special berachah called ‘hoda’ah.’ There we say, “We gratefully thank you, Hashem… for our lives which are given over into Your hands, and for our souls which are entrusted to You; for Your miracles which are with us daily and for Your wonders and favors in every time… You are the beneficent one, for Your compassions are never exhausted…” What do we find here? That a person must first proclaim to himself or herself, in the depths of his or her heart, mind and soul, that he or she admits, recognizes and acknowledges that his or her everyday life, all of his or her regular activities are enabled, empowered and made possible by Hashem. This must first be recognized, acknowledged and accepted by a person in his or her own heart —to his or her self. This is all said regarding the normal ebb and flow of life. This does not call for a public pronouncement. This would not easily move or inspire anyone. On the contrary, these things need to be reflected upon, thought about, and realized.
However, when something breaks the norm, and a person is thrust into a situation where he or she is forced —yes, forced— to come to grips with human frailty and weakness; where one is woken up from the regularity of continuity in daily life and confronted with Hashem in his or her life —that inspiration, that stimulus, that arousal must be shared with others, must be proclaimed, must serve as an uplifting exciting lesson for all, which will enable them all to internalize the message and utilize that inspiration within the regularity and uniformity of everyday life, ensuring true, real, lasting hoda’ah.