Todah: Thanksgiving (Strong’s 8426)
Todah in Hebrew script: תּוֹדָה
Sounds like: toe-dah
This weekend Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving. Many gather in their homes, have a big turkey dinner, and share around the table what they’re thankful for. But here’s how a certain television character described Thanksgiving: “To commemorate a past event you eat and kill an animal. It’s a ritual sacrifice… With pie.” Thanksgiving, in North America, is associated with the Mayflower pilgrims and their attempt to have a positive connection with the native people of the land, through the sharing of a meal. This commemorative meal usually includes some sort of roasted animal and, yes, pie.
Biblically the concept of thanksgiving has nothing to do with pilgrims, but it is very much associated with sacrifice. However this sacrifice doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with killing an animal.
There are two main words in the Tanakh that encompass the idea of thanksgiving.
Hodu is the command, “Give thanks”. But there is also a specific word meaning thanksgiving. The word todah is the thanksgiving sacrifice you do to show how thankful you are. For example, in one of David’s Psalms he writes:
I wash my hands in innocence that I may come near Your altar, O YHWH,
to raise my voice in thanksgiving [todah] and declare all Your wonderful works.
David offers his voice in thanksgiving. It’s what he has to give to show his thankfulness.
Sometimes it’s just a statement of an action to come:
Truly, O YHWH, I am Your servant;
I am Your servant, the son of Your maidservant; You have released my bonds.
I will offer to You a sacrifice of thanksgiving [tsebah todah] and call on the name of YHWH.
I will fulfill my vows to YHWH in the presence of all His people,
in the courts of YHWH’s house, in your midst, O Jerusalem. Hallelujah!
Here the Psalmist promises to offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving. His sacrifice will be to fulfill his vows to YHWH in front of all the people.
The hesitant prophet, Jonah, came to the same conclusion. Thanksgiving is a sacrifice. It is fulfilling the personal vows you make to God.
But You raised my life from the pit, O YHWH my God!
As my life was fading away, I remembered YHWH.
My prayer went up to You, to Your holy temple.
Those who cling to worthless idols forsake His loving devotion.
But I, with the voice of thanksgiving [todah], will sacrifice to You.
I will fulfill what I have vowed. Salvation is from YHWH!”
Fulfilling the vows you make to God is a sacrifice of thanksgiving. But what vows have you made?
Certain vows are recited multiple times, everyday, by practising Jewish people. It is the Shema Prayer, taken from the Torah:
Hear, O Israel: YHWH our God, YHWH is One. And you shall love YHWH your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.
Fulfilling this vow is a sacrifice. It is not easy. It takes effort. Fulfilling this vow is the ultimate way to show thanksgiving to God.
When you love God this much, with your full heart, with the entirety of your being, with every fibre of your body, then you will be just the kind of person this world needs. When your foundation is loving God first, then what pours out of you is genuine LOVE for all creatures, big and small. This is the sacrifice of thanksgiving that YHWH requires.
The Shema Prayer is given that title from the first word shema, meaning to hear or listen. YHWH is asking Israel to pay attention. In Isaiah 51 He, again, asks His people to pay attention and to listen:
For YHWH will comfort Zion and look with compassion on all her ruins;
He will make her wilderness like Eden and her desert like the garden of YHWH.
Joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving [todah] and melodious song.
Pay attention to Me, My people, and listen to Me, My nation;
for a law will go out from Me, and My justice will become a light to the nations;
I will bring it about quickly. My righteousness draws near,
My Salvation is on the way, and My arms will bring justice to the nations.
Zion will someday return to the garden state it was meant to be. It will be full of joy, and gladness, beautiful songs and thanksgiving. But how? This is where God wants you to pay attention. He will send a law [torah], and this justice will be a light [l’owr] to all the nations. And here is what He really wants you to hear: “My Salvation is on the way”.
Messianic Jews and Christians believe that Yeshua HaMashiach was, and is, the fulfillment of this promise. Jesus (Yeshua) whose name literally means Salvation, in Hebrew, considered thanksgiving as a way of giving glory to God:
While Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem, He was passing between Samaria and Galilee. As He entered one of the villages, He was met by ten lepers. They stood at a distance and raised their voices, shouting, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”
When Jesus saw them, He said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they were on their way, they were cleansed.
When one of them saw that he was healed, he came back, praising God in a loud voice. He fell facedown at Jesus’ feet in thanksgiving to Him—and he [this man] was a Samaritan.
“Were not all ten cleansed?” Jesus asked. “Where then are the other nine? Was no one found except this foreigner to return and give glory to God?”
Then Jesus said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has saved you!”
This Samaritan man, a foreigner, came back and fell at Yeshua’s feet, offering thanksgiving to Him. He is identifying Yeshua as the Messiah, the Salvation that came to save all nations.
And Yeshua’s response? Was it only this man, a Samaritan, not even a Jew, who came back to give glory to God? And to the man he says, “your faith has saved you!”
Giving thanks IS giving glory to God. Those ten men may have been healed, but this one was saved. He recognized that Yeshua was his Salvation and he fell at His feet in worship and thanksgiving. This is the kind of thanksgiving we ought to express… fall on your face thankfulness.
In the Revelation that John experienced, he described how the heavenly beings behaved around the Almighty God:
And all the angels stood around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. And they fell facedown before the throne and worshiped God, saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honour and power and strength to our God forever and ever! Amen.”
We should be dripping with thanksgiving. The apostle Paul, summarizes it like this:
Therefore, just as you have received Christ Jesus (Yeshua HaMashiach) the Lord, walk in Him, having been rooted and being built up in Him, and being strengthened in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding with thanksgiving.
As you sit with your loved ones around the table this Canadian Thanksgiving weekend, remember YHWH’s abounding love for you; remember Yeshua’s overwhelming sacrifice. It was His death that set you free. Be thankful for the love and freedom you have been given, and humbly give all the glory to God. Amen.
Next week: Book