"And if his sacrifice is a peace-offering" Leviticus 3:1


The classical commentators suggest several reasons why one of the sacrifices introduced in this sidrah known as a shelamim (peace-offering).

According to Rashbam, the word shelamim is not related to the Hebrew word for peace, shalom, but to the word which means to make a repayment, leshalem. The shelamim offering was brought when a person wanted to thank God for something good that had happened in their life and it was regarded as a form of repayment.

Rabbi Abraham ibn Ezra maintained that shelamim is related to the word shalem, which means something which is complete, and it is so-called because it is brought by a person who feels spiritually complete, now that good things have happened to him in his life.

But for me, the most thought-provoking explanation is provided by Rashi who maintains that the word shelamim does actually mean a peace-offering.

He explains that it is called this because of the way that it is divided after it has been slaughtered – some of it was to be burned on the altar in the Temple, some of it was given to priests to eat and some of it was eaten by the person who had brought the sacrifice.

In the Temple there were always competing claims for any of the sacrifices and each type was divided differently.

This was the only sacrifice which was divided among all the interested parties and since it kept everyone happy, it was called a peace-offering.

This then teaches us something important not just about the nature of this sacrifice in particular, but also about the meaning of peace in general. It is about satisfying the requirements of as many different groups as possible and making sure that they all get at least a part of what they would wish for.

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