Mandated Arrogance? by Ariel Caplan


Among the many Korbanot mentioned in this week’s Parasha, Parshat Tzav discusses the laws of the Korban Todah, an offering brought to express one’s gratitude to Hashem for a specific event that happened to oneself. The Todah is accompanied by forty “loaves” – thirty of three different types of Matzah and ten of real bread. This is one of only two Korbanot that include a Chametz component; other than the Todah and the Shtei HaLechem brought on Shavuot, everything has to be unleavened. Why is the Korban Todah an exception to the rule? Additionally, the Pesukim specifically point out that the meat of the Korban as well as all forty loaves must be consumed within a single day. Why is there such a rush to complete this specific Korban?

The most common answer to the second question is that the vast amount of food that had to be eaten in such a short time effectively forced the one bringing the Korban to have a feast that would be open to the public. At this meal, people would inquire about the reason the Korban Todah was brought, just as many ask one who has recited Birkat HaGomeil (the Bracha one says after emerging from a dangerous situation unscathed) why he said it. Hence, the amount of food in conjunction with the short time-frame led to the owner publicizing the miracle that had Hashem had performed for him (see Ha’amek Davar). 

To answer the question as to why the Korban Todah included Chametz, we must first examine the idea of Chametz and Matzah. There is a famous idea that Chametz, which consists of dough that rises, represents an inflated ego, while Matzah, the entire volume of which almost all of it is completely filled with substance (unlike bread which is mostly air), represents humility. On Pesach, when we remove Chametz from our midst, we also strive to uproot our own arrogance and create a modest mindset. In a sense, we subordinate ourselves to the identity of the nation as a whole, since only through this outlook can we fully appreciate the national miracle of Yetziat Mitzrayim.

Perhaps based on what we have said so far we can understand why, as R’ Menachem Liebtag points out, certain Halachot of the Korban Pesach are similar to those of the Korban Todah – both must be eaten within a day and both must be eaten together with some sort of bread (the Torah specifically states that the Pesach must be eaten “Al Matzot U’Merorim,” with Matzah and Maror). Both Korbanot are dedicated to commemorating and publicizing a miracle: the Korban Todah is designed to generate public knowledge of the miracle that occurred to its owner, while the Korban Pesach and its accompanying Matzot and Maror are meant to inspire discussion of the miracles that were involved in Yetziat Mitzrayim. However, while the Korban Pesach includes only Matzah for bread, the Korban Todah includes Chametz, as well. Understandably, the Korban Pesach’s focus on national consciousness above individuality leads to the exclusive use of Matzot, the “poor man’s bread,” which represent humility. But if we apply this symbolism to the Korban Todah, we find that this Korban actually encourages haughtiness! Considering how much the Torah generally abhors conceit, how could this be?

We may answer that one who is bringing a Korban Todah is indeed supposed to be arrogant to a degree – he must go out of his way to publicize what Hashem did for him. One might think that he should refrain from such public expression, as this emphasis on one’s own relationship with Hashem (as evidenced by the miracle Hashem performed for him) seems antithetical to the ideal of humility. In truth, though, one must take the opportunity to pour out his thanks in a public forum, thereby glorifying the name of Hashem. However, one must be careful to keep this “arrogance” within the appropriate context. It is critical to remember that, while there may be ten leavened breads, the vast majority of the loaves are still Matzot, symbolizing the need to keep the focus squarely where it belongs – on Hashem. It is all too easy to cross the line from exulting in Hashem’s salvation to childish bragging.

Two practical examples clearly illustrate the necessity of finding the appropriate balance. Chazal say that two aspects of life require more work from Hashem than Keriat Yam Suf – matching up people to jobs and matching up spouses. Yet, we find that when one finds employment or decides upon a marriage partner, the reaction is often happiness without any real consideration of Hashem’s role in the matter. We may take on the attitude of “Kochi VeOtzem Yadi Asah Li Et HaChayil HaZeh” (Devarim 8:17), that we should only credit ourselves, and by extension not God, for our accomplishments. This attitude can even emerge over time – we may start out extremely grateful to Hashem, but as we tell more and more people the good news, the human tendency is to increase the focus on the event itself and to forget to include even a simple “Thank God.” Of course, there is a Mitzvah to spread Simcha, especially when there is genuinely something to be happy about – we just have to be careful to keep God in the picture. May we all be Zocheh in the future to celebrate many happy occasions and use them, both to inspire ourselves and to improve our own Avodat Hashem. 


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