The Torah commanded the Children of Israel to sacrifice a lamb at twilight, on the 14th of Nisan. For generations, Jewish people went to the Temple of God in Jerusalem and sacrificed their lambs in obedience to the commandment. They sacrificed their lambs, roasted them, and each family gathered together with friends and ate the Pesach, the Passover sacrifice, and remembered the exodus from Egypt and the deliverance brought about by the direct intervention of God.
In the 21st century, we no longer have a temple, and we no longer eat lamb on Passover because we don’t have a temple in which to sacrifice a lamb. Some have suggested that we are without a sacrifice. I say, “Nay, Nay!”
To prepare for Passover, I buy several briskets, which are costly, along with special Matzot, and other items for the Seder, the Passover ceremonial meal. It costs hundreds of dollars, and days of preparation. This is in addition to our normal food bill. Our seder this year will have over 30 people, and I’ve heard of others with many more at their tables. There is the setting up of tables and chairs, the cleaning up afterward, the serving; it’s a lot of work. A friend asked me why do I do it. Without thinking, I replied, it’s my offering to God. It’s an act of love. I offer it to God, and other people, who don’t have seders of their own are blessed as well.
Granted, our observance is not strictly what the Torah says. It’s not a lamb, and it’s not sacrificed in the temple, but those things are not possible at this time. I offer to God what I can, not what I can’t.
We will have the traditional foods I grew up with: brisket, Matzoh Ball soup, macaroons, Shmurah Matzoh, Charoses, etc. I have to buy Gefilte fish for my dad. Not just any Gefilte fish, but Whitefish Gefilte fish. Why? That’s what he likes. I also bought him Halvah as a surprise.
I like the coming together, and the repetition of the traditional story. The things we do each year are comforting to me. I use as many antique Jewish Items as I can. I feel that other people blessed God over the years with these things, and we become part of that tradition of blessing God as we continue to use them. My parents will be with us, one of my sons, as will many of our friends. It’s a time to remember that God redeemed us from Egypt, and that we are a family and a people.
At the same time, there are parallels with the experience in Temple times. The men of the community would bring their lambs to the temple. I’m sure there were lines, and waiting, and people chatting while they waited their turns. It was a communal experience. I had a similar experience at the Kosher market. I got there about 8:30pm, and the place was packed with other Jewish husbands, doing the Passover shopping. Every man, including myself, was walking around the store with a shopping cart, every man talking on a cell phone to his wife, as they looked for what the wife wanted, some conversations in English, some in Hebrew, and some in Yiddish. Finding everything took well over an hour, and when I got on a long line, everyone was chatting about the wait, but no one was upset. There was a festive happy mood, with a lot of joking. People were exceptionally friendly. I watched my retirement hopes fade as the cashier rang up my purchase, but I figured this is my offering to God. May He be blessed forever!