JewishEncyclopedia.com

The unedited full-text of the 1906 Jewish Encyclopedia
- Phrase search: "names of god"
- Exclude terms: "names of god" -zerah
- Volume/Page: v9 p419
- Diacritics optional: Ḥanukkah or hanukkah
- Search by Author: altruism author:Hirsch
search tips & recommendations

PASSOVER SACRIFICE (Hebrew, "zebaḥ Pesaḥ"; lit. "sacrifice of exemption"):

(Redirected from PASCHAL SACRIFICE.)

The sacrifice which the Israelites offered at the command of God during the night before the Exodus from Egypt, and which they ate with special ceremonies according to divine direction. The blood of this sacrifice sprinkled on the door-posts of the Israelites was to be a sign to the angel of death, when passing through the land to slay the first-born of the Egyptians that night, that he should pass by the houses of the Israelites (Ex. xii. 1-23). This is called in the Mishnah the "Egyptian Passover sacrifice" ("Pesaḥ Miẓrayim"; Pes. ix. 5). It was ordained, furthermore (Ex. xii. 24-27), that this observance should be repeated annually for all time. This so-called "Pesaḥ Dorot," the Passover of succeeding generations (Pes. l.c.), differs in many respects from the Pesaḥ Miẓrayim. In the pre-exilic period, however, Pesaḥ was rarely sacrificed in accordance with the legal prescriptions (comp. II Chron. xxxv. 18); but it was regularly offered during the time of the Second Temple, and there was a definite ritual for it, in addition to the regulations prescribed by the Law. The following is a brief summary of the principal ordinances and of the ritual accompanying the sacrifice:

The Sacrifice.

The sacrificial animal, which was either a lamb or kid, was necessarily a male, one year old, and without blemish. Each family or society offered one victim together, which did not require the "semikah" (laying on of hands), although it was obligatory to determine who were to take part in the sacrifice that the killing might take place with the proper intentions. Only those who were circumcised and clean before the Law might participate; and they were forbidden to have leavened food in their possession during the act of killing the paschal lamb. The animal was slain on the eve of the Passover, on the afternoon of the 14th of Nisan, after the Tamid sacrifice had been killed, i.e., at three o'clock, or, in case the eve of the Passover fell on Friday, at two. The killing took place in the court of the Temple, and might be performed by a layman, although the blood had to be caught by a priest, and rows of priests with gold or silver cups in their hands stood in line from the Temple court to the altar, where the blood was sprinkled. These cups were rounded on the bottom, so that they could not be set down; for in that case the blood might coagulate. The priest who caught the blood as it dropped from the victim then handed the cup to the priest next to him, receiving from him an empty one, and the full cup was passed along the line until it reached the last priest, who sprinkled its contents on the altar. The lamb was then hung upon special hooks or sticks and skinned; but if the eve of the Passover fell on a Sabbath, the skin was removed down to the breast only. The abdomen was then cut open, and the fatty portions intended for the altar were taken out, placed in a vessel, salted, and offered by the priest on the altar, while the remaining entrails likewise were taken out and cleansed.

On Sabbath Eve.

Even if the eve of the Passover fell on a Sabbath, the paschal lamb was killed in the manner described above, the blood was sprinkled on the altar, the entrails removed and cleansed, and the fat offered on the altar; for these four ceremonies in the case of the paschal lamb, and these alone, were exempt from the prohibition against working on the Sabbath. This regulation, that the Sabbath yielded the precedence to the Passover, was not definitely determined until the time of Hillel, who established it as a law and was in return elevated to the dignity of nasi by the Bene Bathyra (Pes. 68a).

The Three Groups of Laity.

The people taking part in the sacrifice were divided into three groups. The first of these filled the court of the Temple, so that the gates had to be closed, and while they were killing and offering their paschal lambs the Levites on the platform ("dukan") recited the "Hallel" (Ps. cxiii.-cxviii.), accompanied by instruments of brass. If the Levites finished their recitation before the priests had completed the sacrifice, they repeated the "Hallel," although it never happened that they had to repeat it twice. As soon as the first group had offered their sacrifice, the gates were opened to let them out, and their places were taken by the second and third groups successively. All three groups offered their sacrifice in the manner described, while the "Hallel" was recited; but the third group was so small that it had always finished before the Levites reached Ps. cxvi. It was called the "group of the lazy" because it came last. Even if the majority of the people were ritually uncleanon the eve of the Passover, the sacrifice was offered on the 14th of Nisan. Other sacrifices, on the contrary, called "ḥagigah," which were offered together with the paschal lamb, were omitted if the eve of the Passover fell on a Sabbath, or if the sacrifice was offered in a state of uncleanness, or if the number of participants was so small that they could not consume all the meat. When the sacrifice was completed and the victim was ready for roasting, each one present carried his lamb home, except when the eve of the Passover fell on a Sabbath, in which case it might not be taken away.

The Home Ceremony.

The first group stationed itself on the mount of the Temple, the second group in the "ḥel," the space between the Temple wall and the Temple hall, while the third group remained in the Temple court, thus awaiting the evening, when they took their lambs home and roasted them on a spit of pomegranate-wood. No bones might be broken either during the cooking or during the eating. The lamb was set on the table at the evening banquet (see Seder), and was eaten by the assembled company after all had satisfied their appetites with the ḥagigah or other food. The sacrifice had to be consumed entirely that same evening, nothing being allowed to remain overnight. While eating it, the entire company of those who partook was obliged to remain together, and every participant had to take a piece of the lamb at least as large as an olive. Women and girls also might take part in the banquet and eat of the sacrifice. The following benediction was pronounced before eating the lamb: "Blessed be Thou, the Eternal, our God, the King of the world, who hast sanctified us by Thy commands, and hast ordained that we should eat the Passover." The "Hallel" was recited during the meal, and when the lamb had been eaten the meaning of the custom was explained, and the story of the Exodus was told (see Seder).

The paschal sacrifice belongs to the "shelamim," thus forming one of the sacrifices in which the meal is the principal part and indicates the community between God and man. It is really a house or family sacrifice, and each household is regarded as constituting a small community in itself, not only because the lamb is eaten at home, but also because every member of the family is obliged to partake of the meal, on pain of excommunication ("karet"), although each man must be circumcised and all must be ritually clean. The fact that the paschal lamb might be killed only at the central sanctuary of Jerusalem, on the other hand, implies that each household was but a member of the larger community; and this is indicated also by the national character of the sacrifice, which kept alive in the memory of the nation the preservation and liberation of the entire people.

E. C. J. Z. L.
Images of pages