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Understanding the Commandments of Passover

April 10, 2017

(Hebrew version)

In light of the previous posts, we can better understand some of the other commandments of Passover.

According to Torah law, the Paschal lamb must be eaten roasted, and there are other prohibitions related to consumption of the meat. 1. It may not be eaten “cooked or partially roasted,” i.e. prepared in any way other than roasting,  2. The meat must not be left over by morning. 3. The meat may not be fed to a non-Jew, 4. a renegade Jew, 5. or an uncircumcised Jew. 6. The meat may not be removed from the house in which it is being eaten by the group. 7. One may not break any of the sacrifice’s bones. The sages further instituted that nothing be eaten after the Paschal lamb, “so that the tastes stays.”

With the principle that the Paschal lamb is specifically meant to be eaten, as opposed to the other sacrifices, we can easily understand this rule of the sages: the eating helps internalize the lesson, one which is to last the entire night, and that is why “the more one tells about the Exodus, the more praiseworthy,” another commandment the greatest sages fulfilled until morning.

The Sefer Hahinuch offers a reason for some of the above enumerated prohibitions. It is derech heruth, “the way of free men,” and the practice of princes  to eat meat roasted and not cooked, and they do not worry about leaving some for a later meal, nor do they break the bones of their portions while attempting to find every last morsel of meat. However, his theory has some issues. Firstly, he does not bring any scriptural or talmudic supports for his theory. Secondly, the entire idea of derech heruth is rabbinic, and it is the impetus for the laws of reclining at the Seder and drinking four cups of wine, but the laws enumerated above are all biblical. Thirdly, the Talmud records an implicit reason for eating the Passover roasted and not cooked (P’sahim 41a):

Our Rabbis taught: “[Eat not of it raw, nor boiled at all] with water.” I only know [that it may not be boiled] in water; how do we know [it may not be cooked in] other liquids? You can argue a fortiori, if water, which does not impart its taste, is forbidden, then other liquids, which do impart their taste, should all the more so be forbidden.

This passage shows us that the Sages believed that the reason for these commandments was to preserve the true and pure taste of the Paschal lamb, and this fits well with the idea that the consumption of the Passover has to be done in a way that allows for the internalization of the unadulterated lesson of the sacrifice.

As for the prohibition of removing meat of the offering from its place, Maimonides writes (9:3):

When the meat of a Paschal sacrifice has been removed from its company – whether intentionally or inadvertently – it becomes forbidden to be eaten. It is comparable to the meat of sacrifices of the most sacred order that were taken outside the Temple Courtyard or sacrifices of a lesser degree of sanctity that were taken outside the walls of Jerusalem, in which instance, everything is considered like an animal that is t’reifa.

This is reminiscent of the idea that the Jewish house stands in the place of the Temple, and the consumption of the Paschal lamb therein by the Jewish family is a kin to the consumption of the sacrifices by the priests within the actual Temple.

Thus, we can continue the equation. The meat of the Paschal lamb may not be left over just like the priests are enjoined not to leave over any meat for consumption beyond its allotted time, and the priestly portions of the sacrifices may not be eaten by priests who have served idols or who are uncircumcised, or by those who are non-priests. The seder allows all Jewish people a chance to become as holy as priests in their own holy domiciles.

As for the injunction against breaking the Passover’s bones, I have not found an analog among the halachoth of the sacrifices, but I can offer something else. On the verse Exodus 13:46 which first mentions the prohibition, Rashbam says that the bones should not be broken “with [the sacrifice] eaten in haste,” but he can not have been referring to the original sacrifice as eaten in Egypt, because this commandment was given after the Exodus, and more tellingly, applies to all future generations, who would probably not be eating their portions in anticipation of leaving Egypt. Similarly, there was and is no eternal commandment to eat the Passover with our “loins girded and our staves in our hands.” It must be that Rashbam is referring to an idea behind the consumption of the sacrifice. As we saw before, The Paschal lamb represents God’s compassion and salvation, while the matza represents our haste and enthusiasm for leaving the exile, to take a leap of faith into His hands across the great wilderness. The Rashbam is saying that the prohibition against breaking the Passover’s bones is meant to remind us what the Passover itself represents, and that we not confuse its message with that of the matza.

On a deeper level, we find that the Hebrew word for bone, ‘etzem, occurs in the same passage of the Torah but with an alternate meaning, “b’etzem hayom hazeh, on that very day did the Lord take the Israelites out of Egypt.” Our sages say that “God calculated the end” and the night of the Exodus was, according to the verse, “leil shummurim, a guarded night.” The Exodus happened at exactly the right time, not a day late nor early. The ‘etzem was preserved, and in commemoration we also preserve the ‘etzem. This also explains why the commandment was only given after the Exodus, because this facet of the redemption was only realized after the Paschal lamb was consumed.

A new Passover has come, and this afternoon the Korban was not offered because the police did not allow for it. God willing soon, those in charge of the police force will be replaced with other, kinder souls and we will merit to celebrate a complete Passover.

From → halacha, original

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