In commenting on the words1 “If he should offer it for Todah, [thanksgiving],” Rashi explains that “[the sacrifice] is for giving thanks for a miracle that occurred to him, e.g., those who descended into the sea, those who traversed the desert, those who were released from prison, and one who was ill and was healed. These individuals must offer thanks, for concerning them the verse states:2 ‘Let them offer thanks to G‑d, and [proclaim] His wonders to man. Let them offer sacrifices of thanksgiving….’ ”

Todah ” simply means thanksgiving; how does Rashi know that the verse refers to giving thanks for a miracle? Moreover, even if Rashi deduces that the verse must be referring to miracles, how does he know that it refers to these four specific miracles? Possibly one should bring a Todah for all miracles, and the verse that Rashi cites merely mentions four typical instances?

Rashi lists the categories in the following order: descended into the sea, traversed the desert, released from prison, and one who was ill and was healed. However, in the verse he cites, the order is: traversed the desert, released from prison, one who was ill and was healed, and descended into the sea. Why does Rashi change the order?

Finally, why does he state “one who was ill and was healed” in the singular, while all the other categories are in the plural?

Just as one should thank his fellow for a favor, so too are we to thank G‑d for the many acts of kindness He constantly performs on our behalf.3 Seemingly, then, every Jew would be obligated to bring a Todah offering many, many times a day — something that flies in the face of logic. We must perforce say that thanksgiving offerings are limited to miraculous events.

Yet, during the 40 years the Jews were in the desert, they were miraculously provided with heavenly bread4 and with water,5 while the clouds of glory miraculously protected them.6 If a Todah is offered for every miracle, then all Jews brought daily Todah offerings — something we know did not happen.

We therefore deduce that the Todah offering was brought for only certain miracles. Since the verses “Give thanks to G‑d…” enumerates specific categories, and then states: “Let them offer sacrifices of thanksgiving,” it follows that the Todah offering is to be brought specifically for these four types of miracles.

Rashi’ s order is accurate as well: It goes without saying that when a person knows he is obligated to do something because of a specific event, it follows that if this very event actually transpires in his life, he will better understand the reason for the obligation. It thus follows that when the Jewish people were told they were obligated to bring the Todah offering if certain miracles occurred to them, they were first informed of those happenings which they themselves experienced, and in the order that they experienced them.

Three of the four categories of miracles for which one is obligated to bring the Todah offering actually occurred to the Jews in the order that Rashi enumerates: first we crossed the sea, then7 we entered the desert, after which G‑d decreed that we were to be “imprisoned” there for 40 years. Only after mentioning these three categories does Rashi go on to state the fourth: “one who was ill and was healed.” This also explains why the first three miracles are stated in the plural while the fourth is in the singular, for only the first three occurred to all the Jews.

But this does not mean that the Jewish people were obligated to bring a Todah for these events, for as they transpired in their lives the Jews actually experienced no danger at all, for “G‑d traveled before them….”8

They merely understood that in natural circumstances these situations were fraught with danger, and being saved from such danger obliges one to offer a Todah.

Based on Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XII, pp. 20-26.