To Slaughter a Lamb for Passover

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Center for Tanakh Based Studies

By William J Jackson

We are commanded to remember the Passover or Pesach (Exodus 12:14, 24, Deuteronomy 7:19, 16:3).  In doing this, some are willing to take it all the way and sacrifice a lamb for this sacred holiday, while others, who are more rabbinic, are not even willing to even eat lamb on this day. These two views are so diverse; we need to ask ourselves where is the plumb line on this issue?  We do already know the plumb line between us and God, and that would be His word – the Tanakh. So let’s delve into God’s word and find the answer.

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In Exodus 12 we see the first Passover.  The night that the sacrifice of the lamb was made by each family and the blood was smeared on the door post so that Adonai would “pass over” that home and allow the first born to live. As Exodus 12:14 states “It should be kept as a feast to the Lord…”  So the people did the slaughter in their own homes, not the priest doing it in places of worship (Tabernacle or Temple).  This was because the Levitical Priesthood would not be established until Exodus 32 and Numbers 1:48-53, nor was a place of worship established.  Like with the priesthood a place of sacrifice wouldn’t be established until after the crossing of the red sea, and after the ten commandments were handed down at Mount Sanai.  We hear about the Tabernacle for the first time in Exodus 25.  It seems that God introduced this organizational pieces after he established the Israelites as His chosen people (Exodus 19:5). Before this time, all the Patriarchs sacrificed wherever they pleased (Genesis 22:13, Genesis 31:54 and Genesis 46:1).

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A year later, after the Israelites sacrificed that lamb in Egypt, Leviticus 17 tell us that all sacrifices would be done at the Tabernacle.  Later, this Tabernacle will become a Temple1.

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Over 40 years after Leviticus established the place for the sacrifice Deuteronomy 12 reestablishes that the Israelites will only sacrifice places God designates (V4).  HaShem appears very focused that Israel will not worship Him in the same way the Canaanites worshiped their pagan gods by making sacrifices wherever they choose.  This is echoed in Deuteronomy 16.

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Over 700 years after the Israelites entered the Promise Land, we read 2 Chronicles 30 and see them participating in the Passover.  This is after years of not worshiping HaShem and engaging in pagan rituals. As established in Leviticus the people did not do Passover at home, they all assembled in Jerusalem probably at the Temple.  It appears the people were responsible for purifying themselves before sacrificing the lamb/goat.  Many did not, so at this point the priests stepped in to do the slaughter.  Still some Israelites did the slaughter on their own without being purified.  The King prayed to HaShem for them and HaShem pardoned the people (V18-20). The Jewish Encyclopedia under “Three Groups of Laity” gives us some historical insight into the processes that might have taken place2.

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Although we do not have the Temple for sacrifices nor is the Levitical priesthood in place as established by Tanakh, can we still eat lamb to commemorate the Passover?  There are those in rabbinical circles that would say no.  They are going off the code of Jewish law (Shulhan Arukh), established in 1565 CE.  This was done by the Jewish community to acknowledge that the temple sacrifice was no longer done3. We need to remember that this is not Tanakh but a man made doctrine that some use as a manner to reverence HaShem.

Another point we should note is that the sacrifice of the lamb was not a sin sacrifice but one of faith.  The Christian community sees the Passover lamb as a sin offering and suppose that this is their messiah. But let us hearken back to Exodus 12 where if you believed in God you would have slaughtered a lamb and put the blood on your doorpost so the angel of death would Passover you.  Obviously those that did not believe in God did not do this and suffered the consequences.

Conclusion:

Without access to the Temple and the priesthood no longer being established I do not think that we, as individuals, are required to perform the Passover sacrifices at home nor should we (Leviticus 17).  On the other hand, there is nothing against us eating lamb or goat this day of tribute within God’s word.  As commanded, we should have a Passover meal in remembrance of the original Passover and reflect on what God did at this momentous time (Exodus 12:14, 24, Deuteronomy 7:19, 16:3).

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References:

  1. William Jackson, The Tabernacle becoming a Temple, Center for Tanakh Based Studies, March 1, 2015

 

  1. Executive Committee of the Editorial Board., Jacob Zallel Lauterbach, PASSOVER SACRIFICE (Hebrew, “zebaḥ Pesaḥ”; lit. “sacrifice of exemption”), n.d.

 

 

  1. Florence Fabricant, New York Times, Home and Garden, A Tender Lamb Dish For a Passover Seder, Published: March 23, 1988
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The Reasons Egypt Turned On Israel

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By William Jackson

https://www.facebook.com/CenterforTanakhBasedStudies

Joseph’s ability to interpret dreams on God’s behalf paid off like the lottery as he interpreted Pharaoh’s (Genesis 41:15-32).  The dream represented seven years of prosperity followed by seven years of famine. So Pharaoh came up with a strategy to weather this impending famine prophesied by Joseph interpretations (Genesis 41:33-37).  All Pharaoh needed now was a worthy man to implement his plan.  He was quick to claim “Can we find anyone else like him (Joseph)? The Spirit of God lives in him!” (Genesis 41:38).  Thus, Joseph was made Pharaoh’s second in charge. As predicted the famine hit and as planned Joseph was able to provide sorely needed resources to the desperate people of the region (Genesis 41:47-57).

 Israel-comes-to-Egypt

Now we turn to Genesis Chapters 42 to 46,  and through a string of dramatic and staged events, Joseph and his family become reunited.  The family then relocate to Egypt (Genesis 46:26). Interestingly enough, when this small band of Hebrews finally arrived in Egypt, they are treated with prominence.  They had a private meeting with “The Pharaoh”, and then they were given some of the choicest lands to live.  They were even given the position of watching over Egypt’s royal livestock (Genesis 47:1-10).  All these privileges obviously had to do with Joseph, who was probably viewed as a national hero for bringing Egypt through this crisis.

 famine

So why in the next book of the Torah, Exodus, does it start out with the new Egyptian Pharaoh turning on the Israelites in verses 8 and 9.  I am sure some of this had to do with the measure of time.  Joseph’s time during the famine was about 1875 BCE whereas the new Egyptian ruler makes his statements against the Israelites in about 1600 BCE.  Equals period is about three centuries.  A lot can happen and be forgotten in the span of 275 years. Yehuda Shurpin, who rights for Chabad.org, says, “It is not surprising that they stirred the jealousy of the native Egyptians who felt outshone by the foreigners.”1 Yes, I do think that is some of it, but if we review chapter 47 of Genesis, we will find that the famine caused two polarized societies within Egypt; Capitalism and Socialism.

Socioeconomic:

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Let’s turn back to Genesis 47.  To quote the former chief of staff Rahm Emanuel “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste”, this could have applied to Egypt over 3,000 years ago. Yes, Pharaoh did capitalize on a crisis, the famine. We do not know if this was intentionally or unintentionally, but we do know the extended famine created a chain of events that lead to Egyptian Socialism:

And who did they give all this to? Pharaoh who was the Egyptian Government

Joseph then turned the people of Egypt into sharecroppers, (Genesis 47:23-24). A sharecropper2 is “a tenant farmer who pays as rent a share of the crop”.  Although this is an American post-Civil War term (1865+), conceptually we see it employed here in Egypt over three millenniums earlier.

Joseph gave them seed, and they grew the crops with the condition of giving 20% of the proceeds to Pharaoh (Genesis 47:23-24). It’s not a bad deal to keep 80% of your crop and get free seed but; remember their land still belonged to the Egyptian Government (Pharaoh).

I mentioned earlier that this marked the beginning of Egyptian socialism, but the term Socialism would be coined until 1848 by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels.  If we view the definition of “socialism” this would fit the template:

“Socialism: Any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods”

As we understand Socialism, the Egyptians because of the famine became wards (property) of the Egyptian Government (Pharaoh) and thus becoming Socialist, but what about the Israelites?  Let’s look at verse Genesis 47:27 “…They acquired possessions in it and were productive, and their numbers multiplied greatly.” So as we can see from here, it was quite the opposite, the Israelites flourished and gained property.

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Land of Goshen

So, why didn’t the Egyptians immediately get upset with this contrast between the Egyptian and Israelite citizens instead of waiting almost 300 years for an upheaval? Well in 1875 BCE as the Egyptian government was grabbing all this money, property, land and forcing servitude onto it’s people, the Egyptian responded with… “You have saved our lives! So if it pleases my lord, we will be Pharaoh’s slaves.” (Genesis 47:25). The Egyptian were more focused during the famine on physical survival and were happy just not to be starved to death.

Strategic Disposition

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So three centuries later, the new Pharaoh, that opposed to the Israelites, makes a profound but accurate point when talking about these Israelites “…in the event of war they might ally themselves with our enemies, fight against us and leave the land altogether.” (Exodus 1:10). So think about it, the Egyptians are forced into a socialistic society and just miles away you have capitalist Israelites living in freedom.  Also Goshen, where the Israelites lived, strategically covered the northern flank of the Egyptian Empire and bordered the Mediterranean Sea.  This was an excellent access point for any enemy invasion.

Conclusion:

To grab a modern day analogy let us look at Korea.  North Korea is communist (socialist), and South Korea is a democratic society (capitalist).  South Korea, over the last four decades, has demonstrated incredible economic growth, whereas North Korea faces chronic economic problems3. Both serve as access points to each other and understandably have a heavily guarded border, the DMZ (Demilitarized Zone).  Imagine if we allowed North Korea to control all of Korea.  It would be devastating, and these people are from the same ethnic group. When we look at ancient Egypt, it is assumed that regardless of economic differences the Egyptians probably possessed a prejudice towards the Israelites.  Even if we advance the clock from the Exodus to Nazi Germany, it was Adolf Hitler who blamed the Jews for losing the First World War4.  Yes, garden-variety prejudice had something to do with Egypt oppressing the Israelites, but the major motivators were socioeconomics and military strategy.

Kahmunrah

Reference

  1. Yehuda Shurpin, Israel’s Enslavement, Beginning of Oppression, Chabad.org, November 3, 2014
  2. Merriam-Webster Dictionary, November 1, 1994
  3. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), South Korea vs. North Korea, Index Mundi
  4. Allan Hall, Adolf Hitler’s hatred of Jews ‘stemmed from First World War, The Telegraph, Berlin, Germany, 20 Dec 2009

 

Where do I stand? Pertaining to God’s Civil Laws – Part 2, Neglect Crimes

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Where do I stand?
Pertaining to G-d’s Civil Laws – Part 2, Neglect Crimes
By: William J Jackson

A Crime of Neglect:

The definition of neglect in Exodus 21 – 22 is one that implies “because you chose not to control a hazard it led to a disaster“. These crimes of neglect range from not controlling livestock to not controlling ones temper.  The punishment in cases of neglect were not as harsh as the punishment for intentional crimes*.  The culprit usually had to pay the worth of the item that was destroyed.  The verdict sometimes protected the offender from a back lash from the victim and victims family. Here are the eight crimes of neglect and their punishments:

1. Striking a man and killing him without intent, the perpetrator will be allowed to flee to a sanctuary for protection  (Exodus 21:13, Numbers 35:25)

2. Harming a pregnant woman in a fight will result in a fine (Exodus 21:22)

3. Injuring somebody in a fight will result in compensation (Exodus 21:18-19)

4. If violent ox is not contained and kills another the owner will compensate and receive the dead ox (Exodus 21:36)

5. If livestock is given to somebody for safekeeping and it is stolen the one guarding the property will pay the owner (Exodus 22:11)

6. If you borrow an animal and it becomes injured or dies you will pay for it, unless the owner is with you. Exodus 22:13

7. If an animal feeds somebody else’s field the owner will repay with the best of his field (Exodus 22:4)

8. In he case of an out of control fire the one who ignites it will pay for damages (Exodus 22:5)

a. It’s in the motives:

"I struggled for years to understand what motivates me to do the things I do. Only took the jury five minutes."

Crimes of neglect and *intentional crimes are somewhat the same; both cause harm and are inspired by wrongful behavior. But it is the action in each that separates them.  One is inspired by aggressive sometimes plotting behavior (intentional) the other is inspired by uncaring callousness (neglect). We see obvious examples of neglect in the above rulings; i.e. leaving a hole uncovered or losing control of a controlled fire.  We can also draw on relevant examples in our “today” world such as keeping a dog on it’s leash and not texting while driving.

b. The compensation for these crimes was fair:

The compensation for victims in crimes of neglect was not extreme, usually enough to cover the damages.  Understandably excessive recompense could have motivate the sufferer to become greedy.  We have all seen this in cases such as suing McDonald’s for $2.86 million over a hot cup of coffee (1).

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c. Neglect gets in the way of our righteousness:
HaShem doesn’t want us living unconnected in our own little cocoons.  We are to be responsible to our brothers and sisters, and in this we will discover community.  We see this in our Patriarchs. Father Abraham fought for the people of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 18:22-33) as did Moses fight for Israel (Exodus 32:11-14, Numbers 14:13-20, Deuteronomy 9:25-29).  The Torah declares Abraham (Genesis 15:6) as righteous and Moses along with the Israelites as being called to righteousness (Deuteronomy 18:13). The same holds true today, as they were called to be righteous, we are called to be righteous (Deuteronomy 6:25, Ezekiel 1820-24, Proverbs 12:28, 21:3)

d. Don’t neglect a mitzvah:

On the flip side of not being neglectful to prevent disaster we should not be neglectful in our mitzvot. This especially holds true if there is no personal benefit.  As stated in Exodus 23:4-5 “If you come upon your enemy’s bull or his stray donkey, you shall surely return it to him. If you see your enemy’s donkey lying under its burden would you refrain from helping him? You shall surely help along with him” this also again is stated in Deuteronomy 22:4.

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e. Remember:

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” Edmund Burke  (2)

Neglect Care Switch Shows Neglecting Or Caring

To be continued;
Unintentional Crimes (Part 3)

References

(1) The McDonald’s Hot Coffee Case, Consumer Attorneys of California https://www.caoc.org/?pg=facts

(2) A biography of Edmund Burke (1729-1797), American History from Revolution to Reconstruction and beyond, University of Groningen http://www.let.rug.nl/usa/biographies/edmund-burke/

*Where do I stand? Pertaining to G-d’s Civil Laws – Part 1, Intentional Crimes (Posted 16 February 2015, Monday)