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The Order of the Paschal Sacrifice

The Order of the Paschal Sacrifice

In the time of the Beis HaMikdash, the Paschal sacrifice would be offered after the afternoon sacrifice. In the spirit of the verse, 1 “May [the words of] our lips take the place of [the sacrifice of] bulls,” it is proper to study the laws of the Paschal sacrifice after the afternoon service, saying the following:

קרבן The Paschal sacrifice would be brought from male lambs or goats that are one year old. It would be slaughtered anywhere in the Courtyard of the Beis HaMikdash after midday on the fourteenth [of Nissan], after the afternoon sacrifice was offered and the cups [of the Menorah] were cleaned and the Menorah was kindled. We may not slaughter the Paschal sacrifice while we still possess chametz.

If one slaughters [the Paschal sacrifice] before the [afternoon] sacrifice, it is acceptable, provided one stirs its blood so it does not coagulate until after the blood of the [afternoon] sacrifice is sprinkled on the altar.

Afterwards, the blood of the Paschal sacrifice would be dashed [against the altar]. All [the blood] would be thrown against the altar’s base at one time.

What procedure would be followed? The slaughterer would slaughter [the animal] and the priest who was first in line would receive the blood [in a sacred vessel]. He would pass it to his colleague, and his colleague would pass it to another colleague, until it would reach the priest standing next to the altar. This priest would dash [the blood] against the base [of the altar], [emptying the vessel] with one pouring. He would then pass the empty vessel to his colleague, and that colleague would pass it to another. First, the priests would take the full vessel, and then return the empty one.

[There were several lines of priests leading to the altar, among them] lines [where the priests passed] silver containers [to each other], and [other] lines where gold containers [were passed]. The containers did not have [flat] bottoms, lest they be placed down and the blood coagulate.

Afterwards, the Paschal sacrifice would be hung and skinned. Its belly would be ripped open and its intestines pressed until the wastes were removed.

The portions to be offered on the altar would then be separated. These included the fat on the entrails, the lobe of the liver, the two kidneys and the fat which is on them, and the fat tail up to the backbone. These would be placed in sacred vessels and salted. Afterwards, a priest would burn them on the altar, each one individually.

The slaughter, dashing [the blood against the altar], the pressing of the intestines, and the offering of the fats supersede the Sabbath prohibitions. The remaining aspects of the service do not.

Similarly, when [Pesach eve] falls on the Sabbath, [the people] would not bring the sacrifice to their homes [immediately]. [Instead, the following procedure would be carried out:] The first [of the three] group[s mentioned below] would remain with their Paschal sacrifices on the Mount of the Beis HaMikdash. The second group would wait on the surrounding rampart, and the third group would wait in the Courtyard of the Beis HaMikdash. At nightfall, they would go home and would roast their Paschal offerings.

The Paschal sacrifices would be slaughtered in three groups, each group containing no less than 30 people. [This is the procedure which would be followed:] The first group would be allowed into the Courtyard of the Beis HaMikdash. When the courtyard filled, it would be locked. While they were slaughtering their sacrifices and offering the portions on the altar, [the Levites] would recite the Hallel. If they completed it before all had offered [their sacrifices], they would repeat it. And if they completed its repetition, they would recite it a third time. For each recitation, the priests would sound three [trumpet] blasts: a tekiah, a teruah, and a tekiah.

After this group completed its sacrifice, the courtyard would be opened. The first group would depart and the second group would enter. The gates of the courtyard would be locked [and the above procedure would be repeated]. When it was completed, [the gates] would be opened. The second group would depart and the third group would enter.

The same procedure would be carried out for all three groups.

After they all departed, the courtyard would be washed. This applies even on the Sabbath, because of the refuse from the blood [that would collect].

How would it be washed? There was a water conduit passing through the courtyard, which had a drain. When they desired to wash the floor [of the courtyard], they would block the drain and cause the conduit to overflow on either side. The water would rise, lifting with it all the blood and refuse. Afterwards, the priests would unplug the drain and everything would flow out, leaving the floor clean and bright. This is an expression of honor for the Beis [HaMikdash].

If a Paschal sacrifice is discovered to be trefe [unfit to be eaten because of ritual law], [its owners] have not fulfilled [their] obligation until they bring another.

This summarizes the matter. A person who fears G‑d and is zealous for His word should read this passage at the appropriate time so that his study will be considered equivalent to the sacrifice. He should grieve over the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash and beg G‑d, the Creator of the world, to rebuild it speedily in our days. Amen.

If a Paschal sacrifice is discovered to be trefe...

This conclusion appears to run contrary to the principle of “concluding with a favorable subject.”2 With a homiletical interpretation, however, the phrase can be understood as reflecting the conclusion of the Jews’ preparations for Pesach. In a spiritual sense, this refers to the completion of the divine service required of us during the exile and our preparations for the Redemption.

Pesach — the Hebrew term for the Paschal sacrifice — means “jump,” referring to the leap forward necessary for the transition from exile to Redemption. “Found” refers to Mashiach, as indicated by the verse:3 “I found David My servant.”

“A Paschal sacrifice which is found” thus refers to our ability to leap into the mindset of the Redemption together with Mashiach.

Trefe refers to the exile. While a person is in exile, even the most complete preparations for Redemption are insufficient; there remains a need for him to “bring another” — to express the totally new pattern of divine service that will be revealed in the Era of the Redemption (the Rebbe).4

A person who fears G‑d... should read this passage at the appropriate time

The intent is that this reading be not merely a commemoration of the past, but rather — to the fullest extent possible in the present age — equivalent to actually offering the Paschal sacrifice. Carrying out this service should make us anxious to bring the offering to the Beis HaMikdash in the nearest possible future (Ibid.).
Hosea 14:3.
See Berachos 31a, Rashi, on the conclusion of Eichah.
Psalms 89:21. See also Sanhedrin 97a which states that like an ownerless object which is discovered, “Mashiach will come when our attention is diverted.” For while we are in the mindset of exile, we cannot conceive of the possibility of Mashiach’s coming.
Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XXXII, p. 36ff; Sefer HaSichos 5751, Vol. I, p. 431ff.
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