The sacrifice offered during Jewish Pesach forms a part of the age-old tradition. Read on to know more about Passover sacrifice.

Passover Sacrifice

Passover is an important Jewish festival that begins on the 15th day of the Hebrew month of 'Nisan'. This festival is celebrated in a traditional way. During the Passover week, sacrifices are offered to God as per the custom. The sacrifices were offered as a part of the age-old tradition following the night before the mass migration from Egypt. They were eaten later on special ceremonies. The blood of this sacrifice was sprinkled on the doorposts of the Israelis. The tenth and the most deadly curse stated that all the Egyptian first borns were to be slayed. In order to avoid the massacre of the first borns, the Israelis marked their doors with the blood of their sacrifice to ward of the angel of death. Even today, the concept of sacrifice following the old customs and norms is followed during the Passover festival. In the earlier times, the animal used for sacrifice was a lamb. It was imperative that the lamb chosen for sacrifice should be male, around a year old with no blotches, cuts, and discolorations. Each family or community offered one victim together.

Pesach Sacrifice
The Sacrifice
Before the sacrifice, it was an important custom to decide which members of the Israeli community would participate in the sacrifice procedures. The rule was whoever participated in the sacrifice had to be clean in front of the law and had to be circumcised. It was also crucial for the family to clear out any leavened scraps at home and dispose it before the sacrificing ceremony. The place appropriated for the holy act was usually the temple. Every member of the Israeli community would be a witness to the sacrifice. The actual 'killing' of the lamb could be done by an average Joe, but the blood had to be collected in silver cups or goblets by the holy priests. The procedure was straightforward. The priest standing directly under the slaughtered lamb would collect the blood that dripped from it and pass on a full cup to the priest standing next to him, who would be holding an empty cup. A line of priests would stand all the way from the temple to the altar, and the blood would be passed on to every priest in the line, right to the last one. The priest who stands right at the end collects the remaining blood in the cup and sprinkles it on the altar. The priests would then lay the glasses down together so that the blood collected wouldn't condense or glop up.

Eve Of Sabbath
Sabbath was generally known as the day of worship and the day when people took a break from their chores. This has a direct significance to the Passover sacrifice because even if the eve of the Passover fell on a Sabbath, the paschal lamb was killed in the same manner mentioned above. The blood of the deceased animal was then sprinkled on all parts of the altar, and its innards were cut out and rinsed following which the fat from the animal was offered to the priest at the altar. If this event fell on Sabbath, the sacrifice of the paschal lamb would still continue, regardless of the rules that prohibited working on that day.

The Three Groups
  • On the day of the sacrifice, three groups would stand near the temple waiting to sacrifice their lambs. The first group would be a large one, and would enter and stand in the court of the temple. The gates would then be closed on the second and the third groups till the first one completed their sacrifice.
  • While the killings of the paschal lambs were taking place, the Levites (members of the Levi tribe in Israel) would recite 'Hallels' or psalms accompanied by an orchestra of brass instruments. If the Levites completed the psalms ahead of time, they would recite it over again unfazed by the fact that they had already recited it once. However, this has rarely occurred.
  • Once the first group was done, the temple court would be replaced with the second and third groups respectively. The third group would be the smallest group and would be labeled 'the lazy group' because they would come in last. The sacrifices would happen so quickly, that there was no chance the psalms could finish ahead of the third group.
  • Even if the people were unclean on the eve of the Passover, they would go ahead with the sacrifices.
  • When the sacrifice was complete, the groups were allowed to take their sacrifices home for roasting, unless it fell on the eve of Sabbath. In this case, they would have had to leave their lambs behind.
The Final Home Ceremony
The first group that offered the sacrifice was asked to station themselves on the mount that housed Temple in Jerusalem. The second and third groups were asked to stand in the area around the Temple hall and the Temple court respectively. After all the proceedings were successfully completed, the families were allowed to take their sacrifices back home to roast and dine with the rest of the families who were present at the sacrifice. The lambs were slow cooked on the fire over pomegranate wood. There was a lamb banquet in the evening with people joyously devouring the sacrifices without breaking bones and dismembering the joints. All the food had to be consumed the same evening with no leftovers.

Everyone present for the sacrifice was asked to engage themselves in the feast with the women and children also getting their fair shares. The evening usually came to a close with family members reciting psalms (Hallels) and narrating the heart-wrenching tale of the exodus.