(Based in part on the Ksav Sofer, Beis Halevi, Tzidkas Hatzadik)
The Korban Todah (Todah meaning gratitude or acknowledgment) is an offering that one brings when he is saved from some imminent danger. Chazal (Brachos 54) say, for example, that four events create an obligation to bring this korban: recovery from illness, release from prison, finishing a trip through the desert, and reaching land after a sea voyage.
The word 'yechabda'ne'ni' would normally be written 'yechabdeini'. It seems to have a superfluous "nun". The Tanchuma (sort of like the Gemara Sanhedrin 43b) says that the double ‘nun’ tells us to double our appreciation, to offer “kavod achar kavod” to hashem. A person who is saved from a danger and brings a korban todah should recognize that even the tzaros were intended for his benefit; he should praise Hashem for both the tzaros and the yeshuos, the danger and the salvation. This is why the end of the passuk says be’yesha Elokim”-- the salvation of Elokim. But Elokim is midas hadin, the trait of strict judgment, not mercy! The answer is that when the person looks at the gezeira of the midas hadin, and he is “sahm derech”--that is, that it makes a lasting impression on him and he is chozer beteshuva or it is memarek his aveiros, then he will see that the Elokim itself is part of his yeshua.
The Medrash in Vayeisheiv (brought in Rashi there) says, Tzadikim should know that life is not about tranquility and peace. Life is about conflict and tests, and we are expected to bravely face them and overcome them. Not only are we expected to win our battles, but when we do win, we bring a korban today and thank the Ribono shel Olam for testing us. Ke'sheim she'mevorchim....
In I Shmuel 16:11-12 David Hamelech is described as
So the passuk in Iyov (5:7), כִּי אָדָם לְעָמָל יוּלָּד וּבְנֵי רֶשֶׁף יַגְבִּיהוּ עוּף, is not a curse; it is Hashem's will that we overcome challenges and win battles. Our name itself proclaims this purpose: Yisrael-- ki sarisa- vatuchal. Having faced the challenge, and having overcome it, we thank Hashem for both, "al hamilchamos ve'al hayeshu'os." (Beis Halevi on Az Yashir Moshe.)
Finally, eight or nine days after leaving the front, I had my wound examined. In the surgery where newly-arrived cases were examined, doctors with huge pairs of shears were hacking away the breast-plates of plaster in which men with smashed ribs, collar-bones, and so forth had been cased at the dressingstations behind the line; out of the neck-hole of the huge clumsy breast-plate you would see protruding an anxious, dirty face, scrubby with a week's beard. The doctor, a brisk, handsome man of about thirty, sat me down in a chair, grasped my tongue with a piece of rough gauze, pulled it out as far as it would go, thrust a dentist's mirror down my throat, and told me to say ‘Eh!’ After doing this till my tongue was bleeding and my eyes running with water, he told me that one vocal cord was paralysed. ‘When shall I get my voice back?’ I said. ‘Your voice? Oh, you'll never get your voice back,’ he said cheerfully. However, he was wrong, as it turned out. For about two months I could not speak much above a whisper, but after that my voice became normal rather suddenly, the other vocal cord having ‘compensated’. The pain in my arm was due to the bullet having pierced a bunch of nerves at the back of the neck. It was a shooting pain like neuralgia, and it went on hurting continuously for about a month, especially at night, so that I did not get much sleep. The fingers of my right hand were also semi-paralysed. Even now, five months afterwards, my forefinger is still numb — a queer effect for a neck wound to have.- George Orwell, from "Homage to Catalonia", where he describes his hospital stay after being shot in the neck.
The wound was a curiosity in a small way and various doctors examined it with much clicking of tongues and ‘Que suerte! Qye suerte!’ One of them told me with an air of authority that the bullet had missed the artery by ‘about a millimetre’. I don't know how he knew. No one I met at this time — doctors, nurses, practicantes, or fellow-patients — failed to assure me that a man who is hit through the neck and survives it is the luckiest creature alive. I could not help thinking that it would be even luckier not to be hit at all.
UPDATE, DECEMBER 2011:
I found that the Oneg Yomtov, in his Hakdama, brings a very relevant Maharit, and comments on it, and says many of the things we discussed here, and adds to them as well. It's worth seeing!!!)
1. Great Unknown pointed out that in the Gemara in Sanhedrin, which is similar to the Tanchuma, the Gemara uses the double nun to mean that one who shechts his yetzer hara honors Hashem in both this world and the next; there, Rashi explains "todah" to mean "confession." However, I said that the Tanchuma is very different than the Gemara in Sanhedrin. (As you will see, it turns out that the difference between the Gemara and the Tanchuma is a big and widespread machlokes.)
2. Eli told us that there are many sources that indicate that one who brings a korban Todah must say "vidui," though exactly what the viduy contains is unclear. (I believe that the organizing principle for Eli's mekoros is the machlokes that will become clear in a moment.)
Taanis 23, re: Hony Hame'agel. הביאו לי פר הודאה and Rashi says להתודות עליו (however, it seems from Rashi there that it was Shlamim, not Toda; see Gevuras Ari and Maharsha there). See also Mitzpe-Eytan there.
Rashi Iyov 33:27 -- יעשה שורות של אנשים כשניצול מחליו ויתודה ליוצרו
Rashi Divrey-Hayamim 2:33:16 "ויזבח עליו זבחי שלמים ותודה" - שהביא קרבן תודה והתוודה להקב"ה שהשיבו לירושלים ולמלכותו
Rashi Hulin 12 says that אשר כופר בהם refers to Shlamim. Same in Hulin 130 and Erchin 21. All say that even Shlamim has an aspect of Kapara, thus probably requiring Viduy (compare with Rambam Maase-Hakorbanot 3:15)
So, it seems Toda requires Viduy also. This could go either way: Viduy might just mean "to acknowledge", like in Viduy Maaser, which is a strange kind of Viduy, saying לא אשמתי, לא בגדתי. So the Viduy in Toda is just acknowledging the טובה coming from Hashem. Or we could say that there is an aspect of Kapara in Shlamim, and maybe in Toda too, unlike the the Tanchuma. At least be-derech drush one could argue that the two are not that far away: being thankful requires acknowledgement of not being worthy of what you got. That's why we say "הגומל לחייבים", not just out of Anava, but this is actually part of giving thanks.
Nafka-Mina to this drush is that the Viduy of תודה, even if we accpet it's a Viduy על חטא, does not require תשובה.
3. I said that...
It is certainly clear in the context of the Modim in Shmoneh Esrei that the word means acknowledgment, just as 'appreciate' means to recognize and to be grateful. מודִים אֲנַחְנוּ לָךְ. שָׁאַתָּה הוּא ה' , and then
נודֶה לְּךָ וּנְסַפֵּר תְּהִלָּתֶךָ עַל חַיֵּינוּ הַמְּסוּרִים בְּיָדֶךָ. and וְעַל נִסֶּיךָ שֶׁבְּכָל יום עִמָּנוּ. And of course, the expression is to be "מכיר טוב".
I wonder, though, if someone recognizes that he got a valuable gift from someone, but doesn't feel or exhibit gratitude. He is technically מכיר טוב, but in the real sense, he is a כפוי טוב.
4. Then, great unknown said...
I rather thought that if i gave you enough time, you would back into the gemora in megilla: i.e., the limud that modim comes after avoda from zoveach todah. in fact, there rashi says: אחר זביחה תן הודאה
an extensive study of the connection between vidui and hoda'ah can be found in r mattis wienberg's patterns in time on chanukah, based primarily, iirc, on the sefas emes. i however do not have either available to me to verify that.
5. Then I said...
I wish I thought of the Gemara in Megilla, on 18a. The Gemara is talking about the order of the brachos in Shmone Esrei, and it goes like this:
וכיון שבאת עבודה באתה תודה שנאמר (תהילים נ) זובח תודה יכבדנני ומה ראו לומר ברכת כהנים אחר הודאה דכתיב (ויקרא ט) וישא אהרן את ידיו אל העם ויברכם וירד מעשות החטאת והעולה והשלמים אימא קודם עבודה לא ס"ד דכתיב וירד מעשות החטאת וגו' מי כתיב לעשות מעשות כתיב ולימרה אחר העבודה לא ס"ד דכתיב זובח תודה מאי חזית דסמכת אהאי סמוך אהאי מסתברא עבודה והודאה חדא מילתא היא
זובח תודה. אחר זביחה תן הודאה: חדא מילתא היא. אף הודאה עבודה של מקום הוא
6. I said....
Eli, I just read your comment more carefully. I agree. A sense of entitlement is incompatible with hakaras hatov. A craftsman is not makir tov for being paid for his work, and a malveh is not makir tov for being repaid. Actually, a malveh probably is.
As far as the issue of Choni Hame'agel's korban that Eli brought from the Gemara in Taanis 23a, Eli also brought the Gvuras Ari on that Gemara. Here's someone who brings the whole Gevuras Ari and the Rambam:
He holds the Todah was a simple Todah, that Choni was saying "Ribono shel Olam, thank you for the fine rain You sent. We've had enough."
Reb Yosef Engel says the same thing in Rosh Hashanna 30a.
7. Then, I remembered that R' Chaim Brown had written about a very similar matter some months ago at Divrei Chaim. The bottom line of the discussion there is that there's a machlokes Bavli and Yerushalmi whether Mizmor LeSoda is about the Korban Todah or just about the concept of Vidui by other korbanos, or viduy in general. He brought Yerushalim Shevuos 6b in the Vilna print that says it refers to the vidui of Korban Chatas, and he connected this Yerushalmi to a Magen Avraham in OC 51:10. I brought the Bavli in Shevu'os 16b that it was sung when a person brought a personal Korban Todah.
8. Then R' David Guttman of the Yediah blog brought the Yalkut Shimoni in Tehillim 100 that says that the word Todah means admission, and the Otzar Hatefillos on Modim that says that because Modim means 'admit,' that's why the next word is vocalized "sha'ata" (meaning 'that') instead of 'she'ata' (meaning 'because'.) I think that even though the Abudraham clearly agrees with that, it's wrong anyway.
The Abudraham: says that you have to say modim yourself, you can't be yotzei with a shliach, because it's kabalas ol malchus shamayim, and KOMS can't be done with shlichus. If it was thanks, it would have no connection with KOMS. He must hold it's not Thanks, but rather acknowledgment.
But I think he's wrong. It means Thanks. My proof is from Sotah 40a, where it says Modim....ahl. Ahl means 'for.' Modim for....doesn't make sense if it means acknowledgment, but it makes sense if it means thank you for....
9. I later saw that the pirush on the side of the Yerushalmi there, the Tzion vi'yerushalayim, in Shavu'os brings that this is indeed a machlokes what Mizmor LeSodah refers to, and he brings from a sefer Magen Giborim that it's a pervasive machlokes (Radak and Rashi in Tehillim, the Tur and the Beis Yosef in OC 281, and so on) whether it refers to the Korban Todah or the concept of Viduy, and the mefareish says Ha, he didn't remember this Yerushalmi. But I say, Ha on the Tzion vi'rushalayim, because he should have realized that the Tanchuma also says like the Bavli in Shavu'os, and he should have brought the Gemara in Sanhedrin that is like the Yerushalmi.
10. I sent a letter to Eli, saying the following:
11. So: If you hold like the Yerushalmi in Shavuos and the Bavli in Sanhedrin, you can go ahead and say Mizmor Le'Sodah on Pesach. According to them, it has nothing to do with the Korban Todah, it's just about the concept of Viduy. It might be hard to agree with, but you can't argue with the Gemara.
And so that's the mussar haskeil of this piece. Astonish your friends and neighbors, say Mizmor LeSodah aloud on Pesach, and tell people it's because you hold like the Yerushalmi in Shavuos and the Bavli in Sanhedrin, and that the Tanchuma has no halachic status. It's wrong le'halacha, but it's no worse than saying "she'hotzi lechem min ha'aretz" (Brachos 38a).
12. An interesting addition: when we make a birkas hagomel, we say "hagomel lechayavim tovos shegmalani kol tov." After knowing the above, the odd insertion of lechayavim makes wonderful sense. Vidui and Hoda'ah.
13. And here's the prize. Thanks to Eli who noticed it right before the Tanchuma I brought down:
Second to last line.