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Preparing for an Actual Pesah This Year!

April 1, 2014

The following is from the introduction to my new book, Haggadath Hapesah, the new and halachically mandated haggada to be used for Passover Seders featuring the Korban Pesah:

The classic text of the Passover Haggadah developed well after the Jewish People ceased to offer the Korban Pesah, the Paschal Lamb, in the Temple or at the site of the Temple, a practice which apparently continued sporadically after the Second Temple’s destruction. With the absence of its center piece, the Seder Night had become a shell of its former self. Many of the prominent features of the Seder were instituted by our sages to compensate for and serve as reminders of what had been and what was meant to be, most notably the creation of the afikoman, a piece of matza that is broken from a whole matza at the start of the Seder and put away to be eaten after the festive meal in place of the meat of the Korban Pesah, which was to be eaten by the participants when they would reach satiety. Many of our people believe that the sacrifices may not be brought in our day. However, the sages long ago ruled that despite the Temple’s state of destruction, the laws of all the sacrifices are still in force and that the sacrifices may still be brought, and that in a strictly halachic sense, there is and has never been an impediment to offering the sacrifices. We have not offered the Korban Pesah for the last millennia due to political factors, and that is still the case today. However, the winds of change are blowing, and many have become more interested in matters relating to the Temple and the offerings, and indeed, even in the halls of government there are discussions about allowing Jews the right to worship on the Temple Mount once again. The sages, when discussing the current laws relating to the new grain crop becoming permitted during the intermediate days of the Passover holiday, assume that “m’heira yibbaneh hamikdash,” the Temple may be rebuilt speedily, to the extent that over night, the Temple will once again begin standing. Thus, we would be unprepared for the halachic consequences of that day’s special offerings. When he considered the prohibition against building the Temple both at night and on the first day of the festival, the 11th century commentator Rashi saw this as an indication that the third Temple would miraculously fall from heaven, completely built and ready to use. Other commentators believed that such was not going to happen and could not happen, as there is a commandment for the Jews to build the Temple, and instead understood the sages’ assumption to be that either the finishing touches in the Temple’s construction could be made on the intermediate days, or that the sacrificial service, which does not require the Temple to be rebuilt, would be resumed with little prior notice. Indeed, the institution of regular sacrifices on ad-hoc altars preceded the building of the Tabernacle in the desert at Mt. Sinai, and the construction of both the First and Second Temples. It may very well be the case that we will follow suit, and merit to offer some of the sacrifices at the site of the altar well before the Temple, whether built by God or by man, returns to our midst, but all would agree that however it may happen, naturally or supernaturally, the restoration of the Divine service may very well catch us unprepared, and it is therefore incumbent upon us to prepare. As such, it is important that those who would be graced with managing to offer the korban pesah be prepared for their Seders to change significantly, and they would, by force, have to use a haggadah similar to the one before you, one that indicates how to perform the various obligations of the seder night when the korban pesah is once again the focus of the evening.

The sages mandated the reading of parshath hahodesh precisely to remind us to prepare for the annual korban pesah. Now, every Jewish housewife knows about the necessity of sterilizing the house before Passover and then coating the kitchen with aluminum foil and contact paper, and most men know to “sell” any form of carbohydrates that they own to a gentile, and then buy partially burnt, $20 crackers and horseradish to eat instead of all the yummy things the rabbi told them to lock in the pantry and not touch for a week.

But most are completely unaware of the actual preparations involved in the actual observance of Passover as described in the Torah and the oral tradition. (End irony)

* Firstly, it is important for everyone Jewish man and woman to be potentially ready to join in the offering of the paschal lamb (or goat). One animal has enough olive-volumes of meat for dozens of people, so it is assumed that each animal will be slaughtered in order to feed dozens of people. Every intended offerer has to have his name appear on a list given to the priests before the animal is slaughtered the afternoon of the 14th of Nisan, which this year is Monday April 14th. Those not appearing on the animal’s list will not have discharged their obligations to offer the sacrifice, nor will they be allowed to eat from the sacrifice after the fact. Sign up here.

* The first night of Passover, at the seder, all of the participants will have to eat the sacrifice at one large, group meal within the old-city of Jerusalem. The group eating the sacrifice musty do so together. They may not divide into subgroups, or eat in separate rooms, or have a mehitza in the room to separate men from women, even if the participants feel that they are too pious to eat mixed. They should also then spend the night in the Old City. However, before the meal starts, those registered for one particular korban may choose to break into smaller subgroups, but once the eating of the Pesah starts, groups can not divide or recombine, nor can individuals change their group affiliation.

*Ideally, all should purify themselves before partaking of the sacrifice, but because we do not have the prepared ashes of a red cow, and because the majority of the nation is contaminated by contact with the dead, the laws of death impurity are suspended. However, participants, including everyone from the slaughterer of the sacrifice and the priest catching the blood to the laymen who will be eating the sacrifice should immerse themselves in a miqweh after thoroughly cleaning themselves, similarly to the way women prepare for their immersions after finishing menstruating. In order to attend miqweh at least the night before, women should abstain from relations at least two nights in advance. Once someone, whether man or woman, has immersed, he should completely avoid sources of impurity, like dead rodents and reptiles, and avoid sexual activity of any kind.

* If one day everything works out, maybe not this year, maybe not next, but sometime, and the powers that shouldn’t be allow for the offering of the korban pesah, then those few hundred people who had their sacrifices slaughtered properly will have performed a rare and important mitzvah, whereas those who did not make the effort, and had no legitimate excuse, whether they be gedoliom or ignorami, will be liable to the extreme biblical punishment of excision, usually reserved fort the worst sins that a beth din can not punish.

 

 

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