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Old 09-22-2014, 04:58 PM
 
Location: US Wilderness
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A question about Passover practices in the Second Temple Era. Any insight would be appreciated.
Some background first. Please correct or amplify as needed.

In the days of the Second Temple all adult Jewish males able to undertake the journey were expected to make the pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the Festival of Unleavened Bread. Many Jews from near and far would come, often entire families. A major feature of the Festival was the Passover Seder on the evening of 15 Nisan (that is, the beginning of that day) when the lambs were consumed that earlier had been sacrificed in the Temple.

For many centuries now the Jewish calendar has been calculated mathematically. But in those days the beginning of each month was marked by the sighting of the New Moon. Since the lunar cycle is an inconvenient (and only approximate) 29.5 days and lunar orbit is non-linear to boot, the New Moon might appear on either of two days. When officials of the Sanhedrin verified a sighting, the month officially began.

For those making the pilgrimage to Jerusalem, there was no problem. They would know the proper dates for the Festival when they got there. But for those Jews in the Diaspora unable to make the journey and too far to get word, there was the issue of which of the two possible days was the real official Passover celebrated in Jerusalem. I am told this is the origin of the ongoing custom among many Jews living outside of Israel to hold a Seder on two consecutive nights, originally to be sure to hold one on the ‘right’ night.

Now to the question. (Finally!)

How were Passover Seders celebrated in the Diaspora? Did each family sacrifice a lamb in accordance with Exodus as was done in the pre-Temple era? Or was the korban pesach omitted as in post-Temple practice?

I am guessing that it was the latter. As I understand it, Deuteronomy 12 forbids sacrifices except in the Temple. Also there does not seem to be any record of individual sacrifice practices persisting after the destruction of the Temple. If they were actually performed separate from the Temple, why not after the Temple? Does my guess sound right? Are there any writings on this subject?

Thank you!
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Old 09-22-2014, 05:52 PM
 
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If you were to learn a page (front and back) a day of tractate Pesachim in the Talmud, it takes about 5 months to learn it. All your answers will be found there.
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Old 09-22-2014, 07:07 PM
 
Location: US Wilderness
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Quote:
Originally Posted by theflipflop View Post
If you were to learn a page (front and back) a day of tractate Pesachim in the Talmud, it takes about 5 months to learn it. All your answers will be found there.
I have gone through the Tractate Pesachim, which happens to be online in English. It took nowhere near five months. It covers the rules and rituals concerning Pesach in the days of the Second Temple, including the precise manner of conducting the sacrifices and how this is made to satisfy the requirements of Exodus. The various sections that do not require the Temple to be followed, e.g., chametz rules, are still followed today.

Interesting stuff. But nowhere do I find any reference to what Jews in the Diaspora who were unable to go to Jerusalem actually did instead. Did I miss something? I presume they did what Jews do today - have a Seder without a korban pesach. Can anyone address that question?
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Old 09-22-2014, 08:19 PM
 
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The korban Pesach ended with the destruction of the second beis hamigdosh. All forms of korbanos have been forbidden since 70 ace. Jews make a sandwich of matza and moror on Pesach as a zecher of the korban Pesach.
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Old 09-22-2014, 08:22 PM
 
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Do I misunderstand the question? Since the destruction of the Second Temple, we do not make a korban Pesach. Period.

Samaritans, who were NOT considered part of the nation, did continue to celebrate Pesach complete with a lamb.
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Old 09-23-2014, 05:26 AM
 
Location: US Wilderness
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Call View Post
Do I misunderstand the question? Since the destruction of the Second Temple, we do not make a korban Pesach. Period.

Samaritans, who were NOT considered part of the nation, did continue to celebrate Pesach complete with a lamb.
The question was what Jews of the Diaspora who could not make the pilgrimage to Jerusalem during the Second Temple era did for Passover. Did each family perform their own sacrifice in accordance with Exodus 12? Or did they honor Deuteronomy 12, which forbids sacrifices outside of the Temple?

As I said I am presuming they did not perform their own sacrifices but held a Seder essentially as it is held today. But is there any documentation such as writings from that era or referring to that era that would give a definite answer?

The Samaritans performed their Passover sacrifices at Mt. Gerizim, and still do today, what few of them there are left. They consider this the authorized place for sacrifice instead of the Temple in Jerusalem, a relic of ancient disagreements. But from what I can tell it appears that it was always a centralized sacrifice ceremony in accordance with Deuteronomy. That may bear on the question.
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Old 09-23-2014, 01:24 PM
 
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Quote:
Did each family perform their own sacrifice in accordance with Exodus 12? Or did they honor Deuteronomy 12, which forbids sacrifices outside of the Temple?
They honored the law forbidding sacrifices outside the Bais Hamikdash.
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Old 09-23-2014, 01:31 PM
 
Location: US Wilderness
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Originally Posted by iwishiwerethin View Post
They honored the law forbidding sacrifices outside the Bais Hamikdash.
That sounds reasonable to me. But is there any historical documentation definitely supporting that?
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Old 09-23-2014, 02:48 PM
 
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That sounds reasonable to me. But is there any historical documentation definitely supporting that?
That's like asking is there any historical documentation supporting the assumption that Babylonian Jews observed the Sabbath. The question is were they or weren't they pious Jews, and how do we know that they were or weren't?
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Old 09-23-2014, 04:01 PM
 
Location: US Wilderness
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Quote:
Originally Posted by iwishiwerethin View Post
That's like asking is there any historical documentation supporting the assumption that Babylonian Jews observed the Sabbath. The question is were they or weren't they pious Jews, and how do we know that they were or weren't?
As far as I know there is nothing in the TaNaKh saying to observe the Sabbath on a day other than the last day of the week. In the case of Passover sacrifices there are in fact two different sets of instructions. Exodus 12 calls for families to do their own sacrifices. But Deuteronomy 12 says that sacrifices will be in one place only, this requirement being established after crossing the Jordan.

There are mentions in scriptures canonical and otherwise of Jews who strayed from proper observance. Even Solomon did. And of course the Samaritans thought they were being pious. There are a few Jews today who are trying to re-introduce sacrifices and think that they are justified. All of these things are documented and criticized. If there is no documentation of individual sacrifices in the time of the Second Temple, and considering that piety seemed to be widespread among even Diaspora Jews in those days, it sounds reasonable to conclude that this was not practiced or at least not enough to have been noticed. But it is still a reasonable question to have asked.


Thank you everyone for your comments. I would say I have my answer. Deuteronomy prevailed. No Passover sacrifices were performed in the Diaspora. Seders were as they are today.


Thanks again!
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