The Pesach Lamb

Shabbat HaGadol 5783

“Speak ye unto all the congregation of Israel, saying: In the tenth day of this month they shall take to them every man a lamb, according to their fathers’ houses, a lamb for a household.” – Exodus 12:3, JPS 1917 Tanach

Shabbos HaGadol, the Sabbath before Passover, commemorates the tenth of Nissan (see above).  On the tenth of Nissan, only four days before the culmination of our Redemption from Mitzraim (Egypt), B’nei Yisrael was commanded to take a lamb “without blemish” (12:5), and “keep it unto the fourteenth day of the same month,” when the lamb would be slaughtered at dusk (12:6). 

According to commentary, when the Egyptians would ask about this, being especially concerned, because the lamb was a type of deity for them, the Children of Israel would respond that the lamb was to be used as an offering to H’Shem.  Needless to say, the Egyptians were none to happy about this – their deity being slaughtered – yet, they were prevented by H’Shem from offering any resistance. 

This is the lamb that would be slaughtered, “And they shall take of the blood, and put it on the two side-posts and on the lintel, upon the houses wherein they shall eat it..” (Exodus 12:7, ibid).  It was provided as a sign, that the Angel of Death would pass over the homes, where the blood had been placed on the doorposts, and lintel.  It is of interest to note, that the word, lintel is derived from the Latin, limitaris, meaning, “constituting a boundary” (Merriam-Webster).  Indeed, a boundary was drawn that night, between life and death.

The sages explain that this Passover lamb was tied to the bedposts in the homes of the B’nei Yisrael in Egypt. The lamb was inspected for four days for blemishes. On the afternoon of the fourteenth of Nissan at dusk the lamb was slaughtered; its blood was placed upon the doorposts and lintels as a sign. “The blood shall be to you for a token upon the houses where you are; and when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and there shall no plague be upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt” (Leviticus 12:13). The blood of the lamb protected the Jewish homes from the plague of death, and procured our redemption through the demonstration of our emunah (faith) towards H’Shem.