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Lamb or Kid?

Lamb or Kid?

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Question:

I’m confused. Was the Passover offering that we used to eat a lamb or a kid goat?

Answer:

It could be either. The Hebrew term used in the Torah is seh, and, as Rashi comments, this can mean either a lamb or a kid goat. The verse actually continues, “. . . take from the sheep or from the goats.”1

I found an interesting explanation2 by Rabbi Moshe Schreiber, generally known by the name of his work, “Chatam Sofer,” as to why these two were chosen.

He points out that both the lamb and the kid are constellations of the zodiac. We know them as Aries and Capricorn, but their names in Hebrew are taleh and gedi—the lamb and the kid.

There are twelve constellations in total, envisioned as a ring circling the earth every 24 hours, with a slight lag. Due to this lag, each month the sun travels across the sky in another constellation of the zodiac. In Hebrew, these constellations are called mazalot (as in mazal tov—meaning “this is a sign of a good constellation”). Here is how they line up:

Hebrew

English

Month

Latin

1

Taleh

Lamb

Nissan

Aries

2

Shor

Bull

Iyar

Taurus

3

Te’omim

Twins

Sivan

Gemini

4

Sartan

Crab

Tammuz

Cancer

5

Aryeh

Lion

Av

Leo

6

Betulah

Virgin

Elul

Virgo

7

Moznaim

Scales

Tishrei

Libra

8

Akrav

Scorpion

Cheshvan

Scorpio

9

Keshet

Bow

Kislev

Sagittarius

10

Gedi

Kid goat

Tevet

Capricorn

11

D’li

Pail

Shvat

Aquarius

12

Dagim

Fish

Adar

Pisces

During the Hebrew month of Nissan, the month in which Passover occurs, the sun travels within mazal taleh. That means that the lamb would be in the midst of rising over the horizon at dawn (6 AM). At 8 AM, the bull would be rising, and at 10 AM, it’s time for the twins. By midnight, the kid goat would be on the rise. When a mazal is on the rise, it is considered to be dominant.

The exodus from Egypt was triggered by the plague of the firstborn Egyptians. This happened at midnight, as the kid goat was rising. Pharaoh immediately ran to release the Jews, but they didn’t actually start to leave until the next morning, as the lamb was rising. At that time, according to Avot D’Rabbi Natan, the firstborn actually died of the plague from which they had been suffering all night.

Chatam Sofer cryptically writes, “And so, G‑d commanded us to take a lamb or a kid goat for the Passover offering, and this is simple to understand.” I’m not perfectly clear on the sequitur here, but perhaps he means as follows:

The Egyptians revered these constellations of the zodiac, and ascribed real power to them. The point of the ten plagues was to demonstrate that all these forces of nature are nothing more than tools in G‑d’s hands. In fact, the word mazal simply means a kind of channel by which G‑d’s lifegiving will flows into the world. By roasting and eating the lamb and the kid goat we are also demoting their status, a demonstration of our faith that it is the One G‑d, Creator of heaven and earth, who spins the wheel of the zodiac and directs all fortune.

Footnotes
2.

Torat Moshe, Parshat Bo.

Malkie Janowski is an accomplished educator who lives in Coral Springs, Florida. Mrs. Janowski is also a responder on Chabad.org's Ask the Rabbi team.
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Pewdiepie Usa March 12, 2013

Minecraft How come when you kill a lamb you don't get the meat but just the wool what's up with that. Reply

Anonymous Tracy, CA January 27, 2012

Praise What insight putting Gd before all man made things like Talmud & Kabbalah.
May He bless you and your house! Reply

Ray Portland, Or January 24, 2012

Lamb or Kid? Izzy's comment "Wow" is right on! How can I read more of this writer's work? Reply

izzy ny, ny April 1, 2010

wow wow - never expected that answer!
absolutely amazing! Reply

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