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A thanksgiving offering is mentioned in Leviticus 7:11-15 (NJPS):

This is the ritual of the sacrifice of well-being that one may offer to the Lord:

If he offers it for thanksgiving, he shall offer together with the sacrifice of thanksgiving unleavened cakes with oil mixed in, unleavened wafers spread with oil, and cakes of choice flour with oil mixed in, well soaked. This offering, with cakes of leavened bread added, he shall offer along with his thanksgiving sacrifice of well-being. Out of this he shall offer one of each kind as a gift to the Lord; it shall go to the priest who dashes the blood of the offering of well-being. And the flesh of his thanksgiving sacrifice of well-being shall be eaten on the day that it is offered; none of it shall be set aside until morning.

I have a hard time understanding what was involved here. Under what circumstances should the sacrifice be made? Is it up to the person making the sacrifice to do it or not? Does this passage require three different types of cake? If so, what's the difference between them? What sort of animal is involved in the sacrifice? Who eats the flesh of the sacrifice: the priests or the one who provides the sacrifice?

Wikipedia is remarkably terse about the ritual, but suggests that:

In Psalm 107:22 and elsewhere no physical offering, only praise, is implied.

That seems at odds with Leviticus 7.

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Today is the last day to ask all your burning thanksgiving questions in order to respond to my challenge. –  Jon Ericson Dec 1 '11 at 18:37
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up vote 2 down vote accepted

I’m trying to restrict my answer to explaining the text; the full question is perhaps better asked on Jewish Life and Learning.

Wiki is flat-out wrong. Psalms 107:22 reads “ויזבחו זבחי תודה” let them offer the sacrifices of thanksgiving; the word זבח unambiguously refers to sacrificial offerings.

Psalms 107 is referring to reasons why someone would bring such an offering: safely crossing the wilderness or the sea, being released from captivity, or recovering from serious illness.

Regarding which animals are appropriate for this sacrifice, the text is not immediately clear but http://www.ou.org/torah/taryag/mitzvah141 record the Jewish tradition that the sacrifice “could be brought from cattle, sheep or goats of either gender and most any age, but not from birds.”

The text speaks of four types of loaves: “unleavened cakes mingled with oil”, “unleavened wafers spread with oil”, “cakes mingled with oil, of fine flour soaked”, and “cakes of leavened bread”. (Jewish tradition records that ten loaves of each type were to be brought.)

As with other types of “peace offering” (sh’lamim), part of the animal is burned on the altar, part is for the priests, and the bulk (along with the loaves) are for the owner—and his guests; that’s a lot of food!—to eat.

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Thanks for the answer! That's extremely helpful both for getting an idea about what the offering was like and also for understanding Psalm 107. I'm not sure how I missed the "cakes of leavened bread", but that is a lot of food. But for someone who has recently survived great peril, having feast with family and friends seems like a good idea. –  Jon Ericson Feb 15 '12 at 17:04
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