Psak 5767 Adar 10
Informal translation from Hebrew of the 10 Adar 5767 (28 Feb 2007) statement:
TRANSLATION IN PROGRESS, NEEDS TO BE COMPARED WITH HEBREW TO ADD MISSING MATERIAL
Sanhedrin to attempt to bring Korban Pesach
Each year, Jews make feverish and intensive preparations for the Passover holiday with the Seder as its centerpiece. However, we are still missing the true centerpiece of the Passover table: namely the Paschal Offering, or Korban Pesach. Korban Pesach is a Biblical commandment of the highest order, with the command repeated and amplified to us in three different places: Exodus 12, 3-12, Numbers 9, 1-13 and Deuteronomy 16. Just as circumcision, the first commandment imposed on an individual Jew, our forefather Abraham brought us into the covenant as individuals, the commandment of Korban Pesach, the first commandment imposed on the Jewish People as a collective--obligating men, women and even children--brings us into the covenant as a People.
- 1 Did You Know?
- 2 Korban Pesach and its importance
- 3 Korban Pesach: Symbol of Unity & National Identity
- 4 Why is there no Korban Pesach today?
- 5 What has changed that enables us to offer the Korban Pesach now?
- 6 About the project
- 7 How to take part in the preparations for the Korban Pesach
- 8 External Links
Did You Know?
- Korban Pesach is obligatory for all Jewish men, women and children.
- Korban Pesach has historically accompanied periods of moral revival and spiritual rededication.
- Korban Pesach has always been a symbol of our Jewish Unity and Identity.
- The spiritual imperative of Korban Pesach is so strong that failure to participate can bring karet or spiritual cutting off from the nation.
- The Temple is not a pre-requisite for bringing the Korban Pesach.
- 100 years after the destruction of the Temple, Rabban Gamliel commanded his servant to roast the Korban Pesach. (Pesachim 87b)
- The Byzantines forbade the Jews from offering the Korban Pesach as late as the Sixth Century CE.
- The Rambam (Maimonides) writes that when the majority of Jews are in a state of impurity they can still bring offerings such as Korban Pesach. (Beit Habekhira 16)
Today, any Jew can prepare for the Korban Pesach.
Korban Pesach and its importance
On the eve of their exodus from Egypt and in anticipation of the plague of the firstborn the Jews in Egypt were commanded to take a sheep or goat for every family, roast it without breaking any bones, and eat it hurriedly because they would soon be leaving Egypt. The blood of the animal was applied to the lentil and on the doorposts of the home to protect the Jewish people from the destroying angel wreaking G-d's punishment on the Egyptians, and to symbolize that the Jews do not worship animal gods, but rather dedicate their lives with self scarifice to Hashem. In subsequent Passovers, the Jews were commanded to fulfill the Korban Pesach as they did in Egypt except in a more leisurely fashion. They were to eat the sacrifice together with friends and family, and finish eating it by morning.
This commandment is obligatory for men, women and children. It is even possible for groups of women to perform the commandment together. Once the Temple was built and became the focus of Jewish worship, the Korban Pesach was performed in Jerusalem. The various quorums who ate the Korban in unison performed their obligation to the accompaniment of the Levites singing the Hallel in praise of Hashem's mercies.
Korban Pesach: Symbol of Unity & National Identity
The importance of the Korban Pesach ceremony for Jewish national unity and identity is emphasized by the Torah in various places. Converts to Judaism are expected to perform the sacrifice as a mark of their total entry into the Jewish people. Here again we have the solid connection between the Korban Pesach and Brit Milah. Only someone who is circumcised can perform the sacrifice, and conversely, a Jewish apostate is forbidden to eat from the Korban.
Since the Jews during their 40 year wanderings in the desert were not circumcised, they could not observe the sacrifice. Only when the Jews crossed the Jordan into Israel under Joshua and underwent mass circumcision the next logical step in the reaffirmation of a unique Jewish identity was to perform the Korban Pesach (Joshua 1 1:12).
Another connection between Korban Pesach and circumcision is the identical penalty imposed on someone who has failed to perform each of these positive commandments. In both cases, the punishment is karet (separation) a form of spiritual death and severance from the Jewish people. To ensure that such instances were few, the Torah provided a second opportunity for people who were far away or ritually impure and thus prevented from performing the commandment. Korban Pesach enables us to connect with our Jewish identity and unity; the absence of Korban Pesach is an impediment to Jewish unity and identity.
The performance of the Korban Pesach was a logical first step following every national and religious revival after periods of moral decline and assimilation. When King Josiah decided to purge the country from idolatry, his first step after removing all idols was to celebrate the Korban Pesach (Kings Chapter 23). In later generations circumstances prevented Jews from visiting the Temple and King Hezekiah decided to remedy the situation by summoning all the people to celebrate Passover in Jerusalem and perform the ritual of the Korban Pesach (Chronicles II, Chapter 30) King Hezekiah also realized that the best way of reinstituting unity among the Jewish people was by means of the Korban Pesach.
When the Jewish people returned from the Babylonian captivity, Ezra the Scribe sought to reestablish Jerusalem's centrality for the Jewish people. At that time, many Jews, especially among the elites, preferred the fleshpots of Babylon. He did this by offering the Korban Pesach for the Jews who had remained in the Diaspora, as well those who had properly returned to Jerusalem (Ezra 6:19-22). We can see from the above that the Korban Pesach was the supreme symbol of Jewish unity. Such unity never came at the expense of individuality, for it achieved an exquisite balance. While this commandment was to be performed by the entire Jewish people the fact that each quorum was composed of family and friends demonstrated that unity would not swallow up personality and individuality. The loss of the Korban Pesach left a void in the Jewish people who were deprived of a very potent symbol of unity.
Why is there no Korban Pesach today?
Obviously, the destruction of the Beit Hamikdash (Temple in Jerusalem) and the restrictions imposed by conquerors on Jewish access Jerusalem and to the Temple Mount, resulted in the cessation of the Korban Pesach.
Yet the fact that there was no longer any Temple did not mean that one could not offer sacrifices, including the Korban Pesach. According to the Rambam, the sanctity of the Temple Mount remains. Not only is it possible to sacrifice the Korban Pesach, there remains an obligation to do so on the Temple Mount. We have proof that the commandment of the Korban Pesach was observed, even after the destruction of the Temple. Rabban Gamliel who lived a hundred years after the destruction commanded his servant to roast the Korban Pesach (Pesachim 87b). Also, the Byzantine Caesar Yostaninos issued an edict forbidding the Jews from sacrificing the Korban Pesach as late as the Sixth Century of the Common Era, long after the destruction of The Temple. This shows the Jews were still offering the Korban Pessach long after the destruction.
With the loss of Jewish independence, the dispersal of the Jews throughout the world and, the severe persecutions endured by Jews who remained in the land under Christian and Muslim rulers (who sought to supersede Judaism physically as well as spiritually), the Temple Mount was made off-limits to Jews.
In addition to political and physical obstacles, observant Jews were also concerned by Jewish (Halachic) legal dilemmas such as ritual impurity. The Rambam (Maimonides) had already pronounced that if the majority of Jews were in a state of impurity they could perform sacrifices in such a condition (Beit Habekhira 16). There was also concern about establishing the lineage of the priests and building an appropriate altar without employing steel tools as per the biblical injunction. In the same way that the Jews abandoned dreams about a Jewish government or a Jewish army, and performing commandments dependent upon being in the Land of Israel, the commandment of Korban Pesach was also set aside to be resumed only upon a miraculous return to Zion and the rebuilding of the Temple.
The dream of restoring the Korban Pesach remained unactualized despite the liberation of Jerusalem during the Six Day War. For political considerations, the government of Israel continued to entrust the Temple Mount to the Muslim authorities. This encouraged the Jewish religious leadership to adopt a policy of caution postponing the need to revive the Korban Pesach.
What has changed that enables us to offer the Korban Pesach now?
Recently, the Jewish people have begun to reassert their rights to the Temple Mount. They have been aided by technical progress and archaeological discoveries in solving the once insurmountable problem of determining the areas that can be visited by Jews even in a state of impurity, and which areas remained off limits. Modern technology such as laser cutting tools can solve the problem of constructing an altar without metallic tools.
However, the most important development has not been technological, but spiritual. The emergence of a Jewish religious leadership in the form of a renascent Sanhedrin Initiative has provided the breakthrough. A group of rabbinic leaders has summoned the courage to revive Jewish legal thought and authority in the framework of a renewed Jewish sovereignty. The new Sanhedrin Initiative is in the forefront of the drive to renew the Korban Pesach. It assumes responsibility for ensuring that the commandments is performed in conformity with Jewish religious law, and will also coordinate the practical details with the appropriate Israeli governmental authorities.
This year in Jerusalem, the Sanhedrin Initiative is calling upon the Jewish people in Israel and throughout the world to participate in the Korban Pesach. The Sanhedrin Initiative will choose sheep to be offered in the Korban Pesach, and all preparations will be made in the expectation that we can renew this ancient, traditional offering. In the event that political or other obstacles intervene, the Sanhedrin Initiative has taken halakhic precautions to ensure that the monies for purchasing the sheep can still be used for charitable donations.
Any person wishing to participate in the Korban Pesach can enroll himself and members of his family for the price of seven shekels per person --the estimated cost of a Kezayit of meat, the minimum portion necessary for fulfilling the commandment. The process will be supervised by licensed accountants, whether the monies will be used for the original purpose or will be donated to charity. We realize that this approach is as controversial as it is courageous; passivity always appears the safer course, even if appearances are deceiving. The controversy is part of a fundamental debate whether the Jewish people must passively await their redemption which will be a one-shot deal or they are enjoined to make preparations and sacrifices in both senses of the word to prepare the stage for their redemption. If you subscribe to the second approach, then one can hardly find a cause more worthy than restoring the Korban Pesach to its pride of place as a symbol of Jewish unity.
About the project
The Korban Pesach Project is coordinated in complete consultation with the Gedolei Hador (leading halachic authorities of the generation) as well as with the Israeli Government Authorities, academics and professionals.
Korban Pesach represents Jewish Unity and therefore the ability to perform this mitzvah must be achieved by measures conducive to Jewish Unity: darchei noam and darchei shalom, the paths of pleasantness and peace.
Given the importance of Korban Pesach, it is incumbent upon all Jews to make all preparations necessary to facilitate this mitzvah in case its performance becomes possible.
The Korban Pesach Project is but one of many projects under the aegis of the Sanhedrin Initiative, which seeks to empower Jews to perform national mitzvot that thanks to technological advances and/or sociological developments are currently or imminently in the realm of the possible.
The Initiative is staffed by accomplished scholars and academics striving to promote dignified Jewish freedom of religious expression which is consistent with the values of Western democracy.
The Sanhedrin Initiative adheres to the criteria of halacha, expertise, amenity and peace in promoting the Korban Pesach Project and all its other projects.
How to take part in the preparations for the Korban Pesach
Any Jew wishing to participate in the Korban Pesach can enroll himself and members of his family for the price of seven shekels per person --the estimated cost of a kzayit of meat the minimum portion necessary for fulfilling the commandment. Your credit card will not be charged until after the week of Pesach. No monies will be collected for undistributed portions. Checks written for portions that are, for any reason, not distributed will be returned by mail.
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Send your checks for the above amount to:
- Tzibur Bnei Yisrael
- Sderot Ben Maimon 13, Rechavia
- Jerusalem, ISRAEL