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 Reason We Eat Matzah

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By: William Jackson

Well, we just came out of the Passover (Pesach) week. We’ve been eating matzah for seven days now. We may not know everything about matzah; but the one thing we know is that its a pretty important thing to do for Passover. In Exodus 12:8-20 alone, YHVH commands us to eat matzah (unleaven bread), up to 5 times! And not just once; but for a whole week (Exodus 13:6-7, Leviticus 23:6, Numbers 28:17). Wow, what is it’s significance? There are many theories floating around out there. Here, we will discuss some of them, and we’ll determine our findings based on HaShem’s word as to which ones fit or don’t.

Sin:

Many of us have heard that the leaven or hametz (yeast), is symbolic of sin. Some say it’s pride. From a figurative stand point this makes sense. We all know that yeast causes dough to raise or “puff-up“, just like pride. Another analogy is that you don’t need very much yeast to affect a batch of dough, just like a little bit of sin can ruin an otherwise righteous life. Although all these are good reasons to associate sin with yeast, this is not specifically stated in Torah. These are concepts that are actually found in the New Testament. We find the idea about yeast being sin in Matthew 16:5-12 ; Mark 8:15 ; Luke 12:1-12. Actually, in Luke 12:1, the Christian Messiah clearly states that hametz (leaven) is hypocrisy.

Health:

One theory is that removing all the leaven could have been for reasons of health. In those days, they used a piece of dough from the previous batch to make the bread for that day, and did so repeatedly. The fermented portion of dough had a bacteria. Over time this bacteria could become harmful. So, it was good to remove all leaven and start all over at least once a year (1). We see other ritualistic things in Torah that have a health benefit; The anointing oil (2) and clean/unclean animals (Leviticus 11), are a couple of examples. Avoiding an unhealthy batch of dough could have been a good reason to remove leaven, but it’s not confirmed in HaShem’s word.

Remembrance:

Firstly, we see other places in the Torah where it talks about unleaven bread. It is used for the grain offering (Leviticus 2:4-5), and thanksgiving sacrifice (Leviticus 7:12). The purpose of a grain offering was to worship God and acknowledge His provision (3).

In Leviticus 1-2:13 the grain offering took place after the animal sacrifice. The animal sacrifice atoned for sin (4). If we go back to the first Passover night, we find that the lamb is first slaughtered, then it is eaten, and then matzah is eaten with it (Exodus 12:6-8). This seems to mirror Leviticus. Additionally, in Exodus 12:27 HaShem states that “It is the sacrifice of Adonai’s Pesach [Passover].” So, maybe the Passover night gave a foreshadowing of Leviticus where a sin (animal) sacrifice was given and then a grain offering (Leviticus 1 – 2:13). One to atone for sin and the other for gratitude towards Adonai.

One Week:

But why do we eat matzah for one week? If we go back in time we would find that the Israelites journeyed during the week of Passover. Seven days after the animal sacrifice in Egypt the Israelites arrived at Sukkot about 100 miles away (5). After they left Sukkot, the Israelites would then experience the miraculous crossing of the Red Sea (Exodus 13:18-14:22). But, during this week they must have reflected. They contemplated, on their journey, the oppression of Egypt and how YHVH rescued them from it all. Remember, being on foot daily they could only eat unleaven bread. All the events leading to Pesach (Passover), resonated with them as they consumed their matzah.

Conclusion:

Exodus 12:39 says it all, “They baked matzah loaves from the dough they had brought out of Egypt, since it was unleavened; because they had been driven out of Egypt without time to prepare supplies for themselves.” To the Israelites, Egypt was the world, with both it’s tyranny and security. And now they were to separate themselves from it. As we avoid leaven during the week of Passover, we can’t help but notice how predominate it is in our diet. Breaking from a worldly routine and reflecting on how HaShem brought us out of Egypt is not only a worthy reflection, it is commanded. Now we can be ready to go through our Red Sea with His help.

References

(1) Exodus 12 – God Institutes Passover. David Guzik’s Commentaries on the Bible

(2) By William Jackson (March 9, 2015) Recipe for Anointing Oil, probable reasons behind ingredients., Center for Tanakh Based Studies

(3) What is a grain offering?, GotQuestion.Org

(4) By Robert L. (Bob) Deffinbaugh 3. The Grain Offering (Leviticus 2:1-16; 6:14-18; 7:9-10; 10:12-13), Bible.org

(5) The Exodus Route: Travel times, distances, rates of travel, days of the week

Seven Passover (Pesach) Instructions from the Torah

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By: William Jackson

Many of us concern ourselves with “are we doing the Passover as YHVH commanded?”. Some are new to this walk and others don’t have community. Additionally, there are those that feel compelled to discern between Torah and tradition. Here are seven steps (with sub-points) that are taken directly from HaShem’s word. There are some helpful sites at the bottom of this list. I hope you have a wonderful Pesach, and that this list helps.

1. Whom is required to keep Passover:

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a. Every Israelite must keep Passover (Exodus; 12:14, 42, 47, 13:3,10, Numbers 9:3, 10, 13, Deuteronomy 16:1).

b. A Foreigner/Gentile may keep Passover but, they must be circumcised (Exodus 12:19, 48-49, Numbers 9:14.).

2. Start times for Passover:

a. First Passover Starts Time:

Passover starts on the 14th day of the Hebrew month of Nissan. It begins between sundown and complete darkness (Exodus 12:3-6, Leviticus 23:5, Numbers 9:1-5, 28:16-17, Joshua 5:10)

Nisan is the first month on the Jewish calendar. The Jewish calendar is based on a lunar cycles. Thus, Nissan usually falls between our March and April time frame.(1) . This year Passover starts the evening on March 30th. Also, as a side note, sometimes in Torah Nisan is called Aviv (Exodus 13:4, 23:15, 34:18).  Aviv is the Hebrew name of the month, Nisan is the Assyrian name for the same month, a byproduct of the later exile.    

b. Second Passover Start Time:

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Some people can not keep Passover on the scheduled date (unclean or traveling). They are still commanded to observe it, so HaShem designated a second date. “…he will observe it in the second month on the fourteenth day at dusk”(Numbers 9:6–13, 2 Chronicles 30:2-3). This is the Hebrew month of Iyar. It falls between our April – May. This year the second Passover is May 3, 2015.

3. Removing the Leaven (Hametz):

Clear the house of leaven on the first day of Passover. Keep leaven from the house and do not eat it for the next 7 days (Exodus 12:15, 19, 13:3, Deuteronomy 16:3)

Note: The Hebrew word “hametz” is translated as leavened bread. It refers to food prepared from one of five grains (wheat, barley, oats, spelt, and rye), and has been allowed to ferment and rise

(2).

4. First Day of Passover:

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a. Have a Holy Convocation. Don’t do any kind of ordinary work, except for food preparation (Exodus 12:16, Leviticus 23:7, Numbers 28:18)

b. Have a meal (Exodus 12:8, Deuteronomy 16:7, 2 Chronicles 35:13). In appendix A, below, is a list of Kosher Companies that deliver Passover foods to customers.

(1) Eat the meal with unleavened bread (Exodus 12:8, Numbers 9:11, Deuteronomy 16:3).

Note: If you cannot buy “matzah” (unleavened bread) in your local stores, Amazon sells it between $10 and $20 per pound (Amazon: Matzah).

(2) Eat the meal with bitter herbs. This is “maror” in Hebrew and the most common choices are fresh grated horseradish, romaine lettuce, and endive (3) (Exodus 12:8, Numbers 9:11).

Note: Endive is a leaf vegetable belonging to the daisy family.

(3) Don’t break any bones in the Passover meal (Exodus 12:46, Numbers 9:12).

(4) None of this meal will be left for the next day, no leftovers (Exodus 12:10, 46, Numbers 9:12).

c. Remember what happened this day and tell others (Exodus 12:14, 26-28, 13:3, Deuteronomy 16:3). Appendix B, below, has options that may be able to assist with educating yourself and others.

5. Eat unleavened bread (matzah) for 7 Days starting on Passover (Exodus 12:15, 23:15, Leviticus 23:6, Numbers 28:17)

6. Bring an offering made by fire to Adonai for seven days (Leviticus 23:8).

7. On the seventh day is a Holy Convocation; do not do any kind of ordinary work (Exodus 12:16, Leviticus 23:8, Numbers 28:25).

Conclusion:

“This will be a day for you to remember and celebrate as a festival to Adonai; from generation to generation you are to celebrate it by a perpetual regulation…” (Exodus 12:14).

Annex A, Kosher Delivery Services for Passover

a. Aviglatt Kosher Delivered Anywhere

b. Food Direct, Kenny & Ziggy’s Passover Dinner for Five

c. KOL Foods, 100% Grass Fed, Kosher

d. Grow and Behold, Kosher Pasteurized Meats

e. My Kosher Market

Annex B, Teaching Options to Remember the Exodus

Readings

Exodus12:21-51 Moses instructs the elders of Israel in all of the laws of Passover.

Psalms 113–118 These Psalms are used for praising HaShem and give Him thanks during His Holidays.

Short Youtube films:

Passover Pesach – 10 plagues 7 minutes

Moses Passover 10th Plague 10 minutes

Parshat Va’eira: The Ancient Plagues of Egypt 5 minutes

Parshat Bo: Moses and Aaron Come to Pharoah 4 minutes

Parshat Beshalach: Let Them Eat Manna 4 minutes

Shalom Sesame: It’s Passover, Grover! (2010) 8 minutes

References:

(1) The Jewish Month, Chabad.org

(2) By Rabbi Ronald H. Isaacs, Leaven (Hametz), MyJewishLearning.com

(3) The Bitter Herbs, Chabad.org