ON THE LAMB
Rabbi David Walk
Perhaps the greatest disappointment in our annual Pesach celebration is that we lack the central observance of the holiday, namely the Korban Pesach, Paschal Lamb. It's been almost two millennia that we have muddled on without performing this core precept. Nowadays, I don't believe that most of us even notice its absence, because we've gotten so used to Passover without it. However, that's a shame, because it is such an important mitzvah. Usually we don't know the relative importance of positive commandments, but in the case of the Paschal Lamb we do. That's because it's one of only two positive commandments that carries a punishment for noncompliance. The other is Brit Milah or circumcision and the consequence for both is the severe and mysterious punishment called Karet, or being cut off from the Jewish nation. So, since this practice is extremely important and we're unfortunately unable to perform it, I believe that it behooves us to try to understand it and its significant place in this festival.
To better understand this mitzvah, I believe, that we must solve a number of mysteries about it. Throughout the long running dialogue between Moshe and Pharaoh, the fundamental request of Moshe is that the Jews want to leave
Also, it seems that this sacrifice itself was revolutionary. Until this time all sacrifices were of the olah variety, which is totally burnt. This was the first offering of the type called shelamim, in which the animal is almost completely consumed by the party offering it. Not only is this the first of its type in the Bible, it may have been the first in all human history. According to the Bible Encyclopedia (article on korban), in neither
And, finally the greatest of the unusual aspects of this offering, why was its blood splashed on the door posts and lintels of the Jewish homes. I know that we say in the verse that this was so that God would pass over the houses of the Jews. That can't be true. The Haggadah emphasizes that it was God who actually visited
Actually, the Talmud answered this question. What is usually done with the blood of sacrifices? The blood is sprinkled on the altar in the
How do we understand the three altars? One doorpost represents the parents who preserve and transmit the traditions of our people to a new generation. The other doorpost signifies the children who carry our practices into the future. Upon this stable foundation of confidence that we have safeguarded our past and optimism that it will be brought into the future, we place the lintel which symbolizes our home. Our home is the present which is the intersection and the interface between the Jewish past and future, parent and child.
At the Seder, the focus is on the home and the crucial symbol of that reality is the Paschal Lamb. The Haggadah, when describing the importance of the lamb, quotes this verse: It is a Passover-offering to the Lord, because He passed over the houses of the children of
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