Can We Bring the Korban Pesach Now? An Analysis

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(By Rabbi Yair Hoffman for the Five Towns Jewish Times)

This week, three girls in Israel were detained by the Israeli Police.  The girls are activists of the “Return to the Mount” (Chozrim Lahar) movement.  Why were they detained?   They had posted Arabic signs in the Muslim Quarter calling upon Muslims to leave the Temple Mount area until Friday night, in order to allow Jews to bring the Korban Pesach.

This year is the fourth time that activists of the movement will come to the Old City on Erev Pesach with goats that they plan to bring as the Korban Pesach.  There is also an organization called the Temple Institute that actively is trying to bring back the Korban Pesach. What lies behind these movements and how did it all begin?

It is, of course, very controversial and the issues lie at the heart of one of the most fascinating halachic debates in the past two centuries.

HOW IT STARTED

Perhaps it all started with a terse and esoteric Zohar.  It is found in Volume I of the Zohar (Parshas VaYerah page 117a.)  There it states:

“In the sixth hundred year to the sixth millennia the gates of wisdom shall open above and the wells of wisdom will open below.”

The prima facie interpretation of this Zohar was that something grand and fantastic was going to happen to the Jewish people in the Hebrew year 5600.  Or so did many of the great Kabbalists and Rabbis think.  The equivalent secular calendar year was 1840.

Something grand and fantastic did, in fact, happen, but to the entire world. The year 1840 was the apogee of what historians call, “The Industrial Revolution.” Huge transitions occurred in society reflecting great advances in both wisdom and technology. There was new chemical manufacturing, a transformation to machine production in almost every industry, machine tools, steam power, and now factories.

Did the Zohar refer to the Industrial Revolution?  Was this the “gates and wells of wisdom” that the Zohar predicted?  Or was there some mystical, spiritual potentiality that opened up that year?  Many people felt that something else was up, that something dramatic was about to unfold.    Perhaps it was the impending and very gradual ingathering of the exiles that was about to transpire.

RABBI TZVI HIRSCH KALISCHER

It is 1836.  Rav Tzvi Hirsch Kalischer (1795-1874), someone who is impacted by the statement in the Zohar approaches Asher Anshell Rothschild with an idea.  Why not fund Jewish settlement in Eretz Yisroel?  Rav Kalischer is a student both of the famed Rabbi Akiva Eiger as well as Rabbi Yaakov Lorberbaum, author of the Nesivos HaMishpat.  Rothschild likes the idea.  Rothschild funds the settlements.

In the meantime, Rav Kalischer enters into Halachic correspondence with the Gedolim of the generation concerning the Korban Pesach:  Rav Akiva Eiger, Rav Yaakov Lorberbaum (author of the Nesivos), Rav Yaakov Ettlinger (Aruch LaNer) and Rav Moshe Sofer (the Chasam Sofer).  Rav Kalischer has a very unique idea that he will shortly publish in book form.  All disagree with Rav Kalischer – but for different reasons.

It is now 1862.  Rav Tzvi Hirsch Kalischer publishes the book that takes the world by a storm.  The book is a based upon articles that he had published in a journal called HaLevanon.  The articles proved to be very popular.

The book is entitled Drishas Tzion and it has three central theses.

  • The first is that Immigration to Eretz Yisroel is paramount.
  • The second is that the Geulah – the redemption of the Jewish people can only come about in one way – through self help.
  • The third thesis was that the Korbanos, particularly the Korban Pesach can be re-established.

The book made a major impact.  A translation into German was made in 1865. A second edition is released in 1866.  But our interest, for this article, deals with the Korban Pesach.  Out of the 613 Mitzvos in the Torah, the Korban Pesach involves 16 of them, 2.6 percent of the Mitzvos.  The Korban Pesach is one of the only two Mitzvos in the Torah that if one does not perform it (and one is capable of doing it) – the punishment is Karais.  The other Mitzvah is Bris Milah.

THE KORBAN PESACH

Rav Kalischer, in his sefer, tries to bring three proofs to his position that Korbanos are permitted – even before the rebuilding of the Beis HaMikdash.  He also proposes something truly novel.  He writes that not only is it permitted to bring the Korban Pesach – it is, in fact, obligatory.

Other great Rabbis of the time disagreed with Rav Kalischer.  Rav Yaakov Ettlinger (1798-1871), author of the Aruch LaNer, prohibits bringing the Korbanos before the arrival of Moshiach.  He responds to each of Rabbi Kalischer’s proofs one by one and claims that there is a proof the opposite way.

Rav Kalischer’s first proof is from a Mishnah in Eduyos (8:6).  It cites Rabbi Yehoshua as saying, “I have heard that we may offer korbanos even though there is no Beis HaMikdash.”  The Gemara in Zevachim (62a) states that, in the era immediately prior to the building of the second Beis HaMikdash, three prophets returned with the Jews from Bavel – Chaggai, Zecharyah and Malachi.  Each presented a tradition necessary for the eventual re-implementation of the korbanos. One dealt with the maximum size of the mizbeiach, another about it’s location.  The third was that we may offer korbanos even when there is no Beis HaMikdash.  Rav Ettlinger stated that it was only then, during that time – when the process of the rebuilding had already begun, that it was permitted – but never during other times.

The second proof was from a Sifrei cited by the Ramban in Parshas Re’eh. On the verse l’shichno tidreshu uvasa shama – (Dvarim 12:5) – Rav Kalischer states that the Sifrei indicates that you do what you can about the Korbanos – even before the Navi arrives to instruct.  Rav Ettlinger derives the exact opposite lesson.  He says that it is only when the Navi is definitely arriving that we bring the Korbanos.  But not now in our times.

Another dispute between the two regarding the third proof was how to interpret the verse, “vehaviosem el har kodshi vesimachtem bevais tefilasi – olosaihem vezivchaihem leratzon al misbechi.”  The verse indicates that the korbanos may be offered before the Beis HaMikdash is built.  This is how Rav Kalischer understands it.  Rav Ettlinger understands it in a quite opposite manner – that only when it will definitely be built imminent;y was it permitted.

RABBI AKIVA EIGER

Rabbi Akiva Eiger, the Rebbe of Rabbi Kalischer, also emphatically disagreed with him.  He writes (Michtevei Rabbi Akiva Eiger #45) that it may only happen upon instruction from the “goel haAmiti lehoros b’tzedek.”  The Munkatcher Rebbe author of the Darchei Teshuvah also writes in a letter (Igros Shpirin p. 156) that the Gedolim of Rabbi Kalischer’s generation let out bitter screams because they were aware that it would generate false hopes.  The Sho’el uMaishiv also wrote a strong letter to Rav Kalischer stating that the we have to fulfill the Mitzvos for Hashem’s sake and not out of a national desire to establish a state.

THE HALACHIC HURDLES AND THE DEBATES

There is a very famous debate between the Rambam (Hilchos Beis HaBechira 6:14-16) and the Raavad as to whether the Kedushah of Har HaBayis still stands.  According to the Raavad, the idea of Korbanos in our times is completely moot – as he holds there is no longer Kedushah there.  Although we rule like the Rambam, do we forbid korbanos out of concern for the possibility of the Raavad’s position?  Or do we say that his position is completely rejected? Rabbi Akiva Eiger indicates that we are still concerned for the opinion of the Raavad in his letters to Rav Kalischer.  Even Rav Avrohom Yitzchok Kook held this position too (See Mishpat Kohain Siman 96).

MIZBAYACH

What about a Mizbayach?  Can the Korban Pesach be offered if there is no Mizbeach?  The Shaar Ephraim (Yore Deah 79) writes that the Mizbayach is an absolute requirement.  The Maharam Galanti (Hilchos Ketanos 2:14) rules the same way.

Also, how do we determine with certainty the Makom HaMizbayach and its exact size?  The Rambam in Hilchos Beis HaBechira (2:1) writes that the place of the Mizbayach can never be changed.  Rabbi Akiva Eiger brought up this issue to Rav Kalischer (printed in the Maamar Avodah section of the Drishas Tzion).

There is also the issue of the possible changing nature of measurements which needs an exact determination.  The Mizbeach is known to be 32 Amos within a width of 500 Amah.   There is also the possibility that the Har HaBayis itself may have changed geographically to the point where we will no longer know exactly how to fulfill the Rambam in Beis HaBechira 2:1.  This last point was brought up by Rav Dovid Karlin in his sefer Sheilas Dovid (YD section), printed shortly after Rav Kalischer’s Sefer was printed.

The Gemorah in Chullin 18a states that the Mizbayach must be built from smooth stones that did not so much as have a fingernail scratch on them.  From where can we acquire such stones?

CLOTHES OF THE KOHANIM

Rabbi Akiva Eiger further said that the Bigdei Kehunah are absolutely necessary, and that we don’t have an Avnet, we don’t know what color Argaman is either.  Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan in his Chumash lists a number of opinions about Argaman.  According to some it is dark red (Ibn Ezra; Ibn Janach; Pesikta Rabathai 20:3, 86a). Others state that it is similar to lake, a purplish red dye extracted from the lac beetle (Radak, Sherashim; Rambam on Kelayim 9:1; cf.Yad, Kley HaMikdash 8:13). The Septuagint translates argaman as porphura or porphoreus, which means purple, in ancient times, ‘purple’ denoted a deep crimson, most notably the dye obtained from the purpura snail. Ancient sources indicate that it was close to the color of fresh blood (Iliad 4:141). The Yerushalmi (Klayim 9:1) states that Argaman was obtained from a living creature.  Some hold that it was an aquatic creature (indication from I Maccabees 4:23; Abarbanel on Exodus 25:10).  The Midrash says that the etymological origin of the word comes from Arag – weaving (BeMidbar Rabbah 4:17, 12:4).  The Raavad holds that it thus consisted of two types of thread or three colors woven together (Klei HaMikdash 8:13). Some say that it is an irridescent dye, having greenish overtones (Zohar 2:139a; Tikkuney Zohar 70, 127b, 124a,  Maaseh Choshev 3:2).

Another problem mentioned by Rabbi Akiva Eiger is that we don’t have Techeiles (a problem that many think has been resolved, however).

WHAT TYPE OF KOHANIM?

Another type of Halachic hurdle lies in the yichus of the Kohanim.  There are two types of Kohanim – a Kohainim meyuchasim – those with provable documentation.  The other type of Kohain are Kohanei Chazakah – where we have a tradition that they are Kohanim.  The Rambam writes (Hilchos Issurei Biah 20:2) that a Kohain Meyuchas is required for Avodah in the Beis HaMikdash.  He writes (Hilchos Malachim 12:3) that, in the future, Moshiach will determine who is a Kohain Meyuchas.

The Chasam Sofer (Responsa YD #236), however, disagrees and rules that the requirement for a Kohain Meyuchas was only during the time of Ezra and Nechemya because they had a particular problem in that generation – but otherwise it is only an ideal but non-absolute requirement.  Rav Kalischer held like the latter view.

ATTEMPTED HISTORICAL PROOF

The issue was also discussed prior to Rav Kalischer.  Rav Yaakov Emden (1697-1776) author of the She’ailas Yaavetz (Volume I #89) tries to prove that the Mishna in Psachim 74a indicates that it was permitted to bring the Korban pesach even after the Beis HaMikdash was destroyed.  How so?  Rabban Gamliel instructed his servant Tevi to roast the Korban Pesach!  That would possibly be a proof if this was the latter Rabban Gamliel, of Yavneh.  However, it could very well be that the Rabban Gamliel with the servant Tevi was Rabban Gamliel haZakain, the grandfather of the other Rabban Gamliel and actually lived during the Beis HaMikdash.  There is also the possibility that it was the latter Rabban Gamliel but the incident occurred before the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash. This, in fact, is the suggestion of the author of the Seder HaDoros.

THE EARLIER PRECEDENT

In 1306, the not-so-aptly named, “Phillip the Fair”, the King of France, expelled the Jews of France  primarily because he owed them money.  As a result, Rab Ashtori HaParchi, the author of the Sefer Kaftor VaFerach, had to settle in Eretz Yisroel. He recounts in chapter six of his work, a discussion he had had with a Rav Boruch, a Gadol in Eretz Yisroel who told him a fascinating story.  He said that in the year 1257 one of the Baalei Hatosfos, Rabbi Yechiel (or some texts have Rabbi Chananel) of Paris had planned to come to Yerushalayim to offer Korbanos.

PROCEDURE OF THE KORBAN PESACH

GROUPS

It should be noted that the Korban Pesach must only be brought in groups.  Anyone within a three day walk of Yerushalayim must join up with the group.  The group is called a Chavurah.  One may not eat of the Korban Pesach if one was not previously a member of a group. The Chavurah is generally made up of a family and perhaps more people too.  Any child who can eat a Kezayis or more may be included in the group.  Every Chavurah must have at least one adult male who is an Ezrach B’Yisroel.

The Chavurah must consume the entire animal and each person must consume at least one Kezayis.  Thus, the maximum number in the Chavurah is equal to the total number of Kezaisim in the animal.  Theoretically, a Chavurah could be comprised of one person, but it cannot be consumed in the form of Achila Gassa – excess eating.

Everyone in the Chavurah must be tahor, ritually pure, in order to eat from it.  If they are tameh – then they must partake of it on Pesach shaini – one month later.  However, this is only when the majority of Klal Yisroel is tahor – pure.  If the majority of Klal Yisroel is Tameh – then they partake of it on the first Pesach.

THE KORBAN

The lamb or kid goat must be male.  It must be less than one year old.  It may not have any blemishes.

On the afternoon of Erev Pesach a representative of each Chaburah brings the lamb or kid goat to the Beis HaMikdash. This is all done after the Korban Tamid of the afternoon was brought, after the Ktores was burned and after the Menorah lamps were fixed and trimmed.  The Chavurah representatives are then brought into the Azarah of the Beis HaMikdash, along with the lambs and kid goats.

The Azarah was a large courtyard in the Bais HaMikdash that contained the Mizbayach and the Heichal, the three-part building where only Kohanim may enter.  The Kohanim would get the knives for Shechita in the Ulam, although any Jew was permitted to shecht the Korban Pesach.  The Korban must be slaughtered with the correct Kavanah.  It must be leshaim the Korban Pesach and for the consumption of that particular Chavurah.  If either intent is absent the Korban is invalid.

When the Azarah is filled with people, the gates of the Beis HaMikdash are then locked.  There were a total of three shifts only, and each shift had to have at least 30 people.  If there were only 50 people who came to slaughter the Korban Pesach, thirty enter the Azarah and slaughter their sacrificial animals. Ten leave and another ten enter. Then ten more leave and another ten enter.

During the Shechita and the offering the Leviim sing Hallel (Tehillim 113-118).  Musical instruments are played as well by the Kohanim or the leviim.   The Kohanim blow the Shofar three times, a Tekiyah, a truah and a tekiyah each time that the Hallel is said. The Hallel is repeated until the Shechitas stop but if the Shechita stops then the Hallel is stopped as well.

THE KOHANIM

The Kohanim capture the blood of the lamb or kid goat in a special gold or silver container called a “Bozich.” It has a round bottom so that the blood does not coagulate before it gets to the Mizbayach.  The Kohanim pass the container hand by hand and the last Kohain pours it upon the base of the Mizbayach. The Kohain should pour it in a single action towards the Mizbayach’s base. The container is then passed back to be used for another Korban Pesach.

ROASTED

The animal’s abdomen is cut open and the fatty portions within called the Amorim are removed, placed in a vessel, salted and then taken by a Kohain to the Mizbayach to be burned.  The animal is taken by the Chavurah representative to the home where the Chavurah will eat it.  The hide of the lamb or goat is taken home by the owner as well.

The Korban Pesach must be roasted over an open fire back at home.  It must be roasted in its entirety – not piece by piece.  In order to do this, a non-metal spit is placed through the mouth and out the back end below the tail and the legs must be able to dangle so that the whole animal will be roasted.  It can also be placed on a grate in manner that the fire is roasting it and not the grate’s heat.  Only one animal per spit is allowed.

HOW IT IS EATEN

The Korban Pesach is eaten at the very end of the Pesach Seder. It is eaten with Matzah and Marror. It must be eaten al hasovah – on a full stomach. The Korban Pesach must be consumed in its entiretyand only by the members of that particular Chavurah.  eaten, and only by members of the pre-appointed Chavuroh.  Everyone in the Chavurah must eat a minimum of a Kezayis.  It may only be eaten within the boundaries of Yerushalayim.  It may also only be eaten in a house or an area that is surrounded by mechitzos where the Chavurah has gathered to eat it.  It may also only be eaten when everyone in the Chavurah is gathered together.

If any meat of the Korban Pesach is taken out of the house after the they have begun to eat of it – it is rendered Pasul even if it is brought back in.  No bone with meat on it may be broken during the eating (or roasting of it as well).

If a number of groups or Chavurohs are eating in the same house, a mechitzah must be placed when the Korban is being consumed.  They should turn away from facing other Chavuros when partaking of the Korban Pesach.   They may not share of each other’s Korban pesach – even if one group has a lot left and the other group has very little.

If through some error a person was a member of two Chavuros – he may only eat of the first one that was slaughtered.

If someone falls asleep while eating the Korban Pesach and then wakes up, he or she may no longer continue eating of it.  Nothing is eaten after the Korban Pesach that evening either, and the Hallel is sung upon completion of the eating.  There is also a prohibition of Nosar wherein nothing may be left over of the Korban Pesach.

CONCLUSION

It is the conclusion of the overwhelming majority of Poskim that the Korban Pesach cannot be brought in contemporary times because of the numerous factors raised above.  Indeed, even Rav Kook’s position about being concerned for the Raavad weighs in greatly here.

However, all is not lost.  Let us note that Chazal tell us that whenever we study the halachos of the Korbanos – it is as if we have actually brought the Korbanos themselves.

The author can be reached at [email protected]

(YWN World Headquarters – NYC)


7 COMMENTS

  1. The Rambam writes in the Moreh, why did Hashem give us the Mitzvah of Korbonos, because He wanted to give us a way to physically worship Him by actually doing something. So He decided to have us do a procedure which all nations around us did to worship their respective gods.
    Accordingly, in our days, there will never again be Korbonos, no other Nation does it. This is the real underlying reason why the Rabbis were against Rav Kalischer’s idea, not the empty arguments that they told him.
    The Pesukim clearly state that in the days of Moshiach a lamb will play in the field with a wolf, there will be peace. No animal will be scared of getting killed or slaughtered.

  2. Ader.
    Complete nonsense, its obvious that you never learnt tanach. Just take a look at the end of yechezkel. Whats also obvious is that you are quite ignorant. Besides that many rishonim disagree with the rambams reason, (a major problem arises, why did Noach, bring an offering?, And what about adams children?), It wouldn’t change anything once the mitzvah was given. Besides, any reason given for a mitzvah wouldn’t change the laws pertaining to them, (as anybody with a little background in gemara would know, לא דרשינן טעמא דקרא) let alone a reason given by the rishonim.
    As you see, its Your comments that are empty, not the rabbis. Plus, your interpretation of the pesukim is pretty bad, taken out of context.
    Just throw away your animal loving hang-up, and you will be able to make sense.
    One last point, in case you don’t know, your argument is not orthodox, its the platform of reform and conservative. And im done wasting my time on your comment.

  3. Dear ader
    the Rambam also writes
    אֲנִי מַאֲמִין בֶּאֱמוּנָה שְׁלֵמָה. שֶׁזֹּאת הַתּוֹרָה לֹא תְהֵא מֻחְלֶפֶת וְלֹא תְהֵא תוֹרָה אַחֶרֶת מֵאֵת הַבּוֹרֵא יִתְבָּרַךְ שְׁמוֹ
    I believe with perfect faith that this Torah will not be exchanged and that there will never be any other Torah from the Creator, Blessed be His Name. All Mitzvot of the Torah are applicable for eternity. Also, please don’t base Halacha on Moreh, Moreh is a philosophical work, Rambam left us with a Yad Hachazaka for Halacha.

  4. 1. Korbonos was started by Adam and and continued by his decendents, and adopted by the Yidden.
    2. Not all Mitzvas will be forever. The mitzva of Michias Amalek will no longer continue after they are all wiped out.
    3. The Moreh was written after the Yad. Posek Achron.
    4. Korbonos is something that was given for that period only, based on those circumstances.

  5. To thinker123
    In the times of Yecheskel, all Nations were still doing Korbonos and nobody dreamed that it would ever stop. It was in the times of the later Greeks and Romans that the Nations stopped doing Korbonos to their gods, so when the Yidden came out of EY by the second exile nobody was doing Korbonos so they Darshened a Posuk that Bomos is no longer allowed.

  6. I realy shouldn’t answer an apikores, but for the record i will waste some time on him.
    His argument are Absolute stupidity, The navi Yechezkel, is telling us prophecy on the end of days, and he tells us all the korbonos that we will bring. To us religious Jews, (I don’t know about you) the words of the prophet is the word of God. So its a fact that we’ll bring korbonos in the time of meshiach. Besides I already wrote that the rambams reason isnt shared by all, and there are many kashius on his mahalach. So this genius’s wrong arguments are based on unproven assumptions, and as i have previosly written even if they are right, wouldn’t change anything.

  7. Ader,

    Asides that almost all rishonim vehemently opposed the above Rambam. There are diff pshatim in rambam. See sefer Narvoni and others. And by no means was the intent of the Rambam for anyone to apply the reason למעשה.