Friday, March 30, 2012

Why the Passover laws changed (Part 2)

Part 1 is here

In part one we discussed how the Passover laws changed, and gave examples. The Rabbis and the critics, naturally, are alert to these differences, of course, and offered solutions. Here are some of them.


(1) Why does Exodus command us to bring a kid or lamb, while Deuteronomy says anything from the flock or herd is ok?
  • The verse in Deuteronomy (16:2)  is darshaned this way: 'Of the flock' – for the Pesach sacrifice; 'And of the herd' – for the Chagiga offering" (Sifri piska 129 and elsewhere)
  • Rambam reads it this way: And you shall offer the Passover sacrifice to the LORD your God,[FULL STOP] from the flock or the herd [Take a Chagigah offering] at the place that the LORD will choose, to make his name dwell there.
Verdict: Feels forced, no?

(2) Why does Deuteronomy order us to use the precise cooking method that is specifically forbidden in Exodus?

  • The word 'cook' means 'roast,' as it says in our verse , 'You shall cook it and eat it,' [= וּבִשַּׁלְתָּ וְאָכַלְתָּ] and it says elsewhere, 'They cooked the Pesach sacrifice with fire, according to the law…' (II Divrei Ha-yamim 35:13). [=וַיְבַשְּׁלוּ הַפֶּסַח בָּאֵשׁ כַּמִּשְׁפָּט]
Verdit: Eh. In Divrei Hayamim, the cooking method is qualified as Bishul IN FIRE. That qualification is not used in Deuteronomy.  We're still left with the original problem, namely that the word Bishul with no qualification is prohibited in Exodus, but commanded in Deuteronomy. Also, as the verse in Divrei Hayamim continues we see that Bishul without the qualification, clearly means "boiled in water"

וַיְבַשְּׁלוּ הַפֶּסַח בָּאֵשׁ כַּמִּשְׁפָּט וְהַקֳּדָשִׁים בִּשְּׁלוּ בַּסִּירֹות וּבַדְּוָדִים וּבַצֵּלָחֹות וַיָּרִיצוּ לְכָל־בְּנֵי הָעָם

(3) Why is it a private, home sacrifice in Exodus, but a communal gathering in a centralized location in Deuteronomy?
  • Because the home sacrifice was a one time only affair, and never intended to last for generations. There Exodus Pesach sacrifice is not the same - nor was it intended to be the same - as the Pesach we celebrate afterwards. Deuteronomy is telling us what to do in the future; Exodus tells us what happened on one specific night in the past.
Verdict: Fine, but not clearly represented in the text. 


All the questions are answered with the following theory:

  • Exodus is an earlier source
  • By the time Deuteronomy was written (by someone who lived while the Temple stood) the theological circumstances had changed. Home ceremonies had been banned, and the religion had been centralized. (See 2 Kings 23 where this reform is described)  The description in Deuteronomy reflects these changes. 
Points pro and con
  • Remember that Deuteronomy was "found" by Hiklia during the beginning of Josiah's reign; immediately thereafter the king says " “Celebrate the Passover to the LORD your God, as it is written in this Book of the Covenant.”  and the narrator confirms:  "Neither in the days of the judges who led Israel nor in the days of the kings of Israel and the kings of Judah had any such Passover been observed." -- perhaps because until that point, the home-based Exodus Pesach was observed, while this was the very first time everyone came to Jerusalem for a Deuteronomy-type communal celebration. 
  • The story in Divrei Hayamim 35, where we're told about the boiled offerings (see above) is the story of Josiah's Passover, the one complimented by the author of 2 Kings 23. We're told that Josiah provided pilgrims with 30, 000 goats and lambs and 3000 cattle -- all from his own holdings. (By the way, the verses make a clear distinction between Passover offerings (what the narrator calls "Pesachim") and cattle. This supports the way Chazal read Deuteronomy 16:2) 
  • From the account in Divrei Hayamim its clear that the offerings were boiled in water by the Levites so that it could be distributed quickly. Picture the event as a communal tail-gate. What is not clear if if the Passover was boiled, or if it was the Chagigah that was boiled. There's ambiguity in the verses.
Verdict: Eh. Its a grand theory, but it doesn't completely satisfy me. Just because it might be right, doesn't mean it is right.

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