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The Peace Offering

וְאִם־זֶ֥בַח שְׁלָמִ֖ים קָרְבָּנ֑וֹ אִ֤ם מִן־הַבָּקָר֙ ה֣וּא מַקְרִ֔יב אִם־זָכָר֙ אִם־נְקֵבָ֔ה תָּמִ֥ים יַקְרִיבֶ֖נּוּ לִפְנֵ֥י יְהֹוָֽה:

If his sacrifice is a peace offering, if he brings it from cattle, whether male or female, unblemished he shall bring it before the Lord. (Vayikra 3:1)


Parshat Vaykira discusses the various sacrifices brought at the Mishkan, and later the Bet HaMikdash in Jerusalem. One of the sacrifices offered was the שלמים or peace offering. The peace offering was typically brought after the sin offering and the burnt offering, which were required offerings for atonement and forgiveness of sins.


The peace offering could also be brought as a voluntary offering or as part of a vow. It was considered a communal meal shared between the person offering the sacrifice, the Kohanim, and their guests. This emphasized the importance of community and fellowship and encouraged individuals to share their blessings with others.


Rashi explains that the peace offering can be brought from both cattle and sheep, and may be from either a male or female animal. This inclusivity symbolizes that everyone can approach God with their offerings and be accepted regardless of their status or gender.


The person bringing the sacrifice had 2 days to finish eating the meat. It was absolutely forbidden to allow any meat left over until the third day. (Contrast this with the Passover sacrifice, where the meat has to be consumed in one night).


An important part of the שלמים sacrifice and many other sacrifices is סמיכה the leaning of the hands onto the head of the animal being sacrificed. This was done by the person offering the sacrifice, symbolically transferring their sins and guilt onto the animal, before slaughtering the animal. This served as a way to connect the person offering the sacrifice to the actual sacrifice, and not just let the process be a rote or automatic ritual that ends in a meal.


The peace offering was primarily a sacrifice made to thank God for either forgiveness, or just in gratitude for having received good news or general success in life. It’s only fitting that the meat from this sacrifice is shared with others - family friends, the Kohanim, and sometimes complete strangers. We share our blessings and good fortune with others - this is an important Jewish value.


May we all merit to receive blessings and successes in life, and may we see the rebuilding of the Bet HaMikdash and the restoring of all the sacrifices in the near future.

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