“Sharing, Shelamim, and Shalom”

Posted on March 29, 2023

By Hazzan Jenna Greenberg


In this week’s second portion of Vayikra, parashat Tzav, Moshe and Aharon learn what to do in order to start offering the various types of Korbanot, the sacrifices, which were introduced in last week’s parashah: the olah (burnt), the minchah (gift), the hattat (sin), the asham (guilt), the milluim(inauguration), the shelamim (peace) offerings.

The final korban shelamim is unique from many of the other sacrifices. Unlike the others that were either completely burned on the mizbei’ah, the altar, or were eaten by the Kohanim, the priests, a shelamim was divided: some was burned on the mizbei’ah, some was given to the priests, and some was eaten by the people who brought it. It was shared between God, the Kohanim, and the individual who brought the shelamim.

When you hear the name of this particular sacrifice, shelamim, it has a similar sound to an even more familiar Hebrew word, shalom, peace, as they share the same shoresh, or Hebrew root: Shin-Lamed-Mem.

Rashi, our favorite French commentator from 1,000 years ago, said the following about this shelamim/shalom connection: “They are called shelamim because they bring shalom, peace, to the mizbei’ah, and to the kohanim, and to the person bringing the korban.”

This is a beautiful idea, that the sharing of this particular sacrifice allows this gift to be shared between God, the priests, and the one who brings it. There is an idea that shalom increases, according to Rashi’s understanding, when one brings a shelamim to the mizbei’ah.

While we no longer offer sacrifices on a divine altar today, we have replaced this practice with the offering of tefilot, of prayers, instead. These are our gifts to God in our modern lives.

The instructions for bringing a shelamim sacrifice include these words: yadav tevi’enah, their hands will bring it (Vayikra 7:30). Today, we pray, not by offering sacrifices or physical gifts to God on an altar, but rather by reciting prayers from the siddur, as well as the prayers of our hearts. 

An idea that one can glean from yadav tevi’enah is that one should have kavanah, the intention of directing one’s own prayers to God. There is a one-to-one relationship between each of us and God. While a prayer leader prays on our behalf, we are encouraged to not let that detract from our direct and individualized personal relationships with God.

Shelamim, while related to shalom, means whole or complete. When we direct our personal prayers to the Divine, we have the opportunity to feel whole within ourselves. And with that feeling of wholeness often comes a feeling of inner peace. When we offer up our gifts, our deepest personal prayers, whether from the siddur or from our own hearts, we open up a relationship for God to give us the gift of inner peace and wholeness.

May we all find that personal connection with God when we pray, and in doing so, I wish for all of us that, through the channel of prayer, we receive back that gift of inner peace within ourselves, and a whole and holy relationship with the Divine.