With our Passover narrative so focused on the sacrifice of a lamb, it seems strange that the only kosher meat we are forbidden to eat on Passover is… lamb! The Shulchan Aruch, a Jewish legal code dating to the 1500s, forbids the consumption of lamb on Passover. As a more popular Jewish resource, the New York Times, reported in 1988: “The ancient custom of sacrificing lambs on the eve of Passover and eating the meat to begin the festival ended with the destruction of the Second Temple in A.D. 70. As a mark of respect for the memory of the temple sacrifices, the eating of a whole roasted lamb on Passover is forbidden by the code of Jewish law called Shulchan Aruch.”
While it is no longer custom to eat lamb on Passover, their importance to ancient Jewish practice cannot be overstated: we hear about them not only in this week’s reading of the Haggadah but also the Torah portion. Parashat Tzav, Leviticus 6:1 – 8:36, offers instructions to the high priests about the sacrifices they were to offer on behalf of the community. In times gone by, we believed we did right by God by sacrificing and eating lamb. In modern time, we honor God by doing the exact opposite. May our Passover s’darim, their traditions and discussions, leave us open to new ways of honoring God and our peers as we internalize the lessons of the Exodus!
Rabbi Aaron C. Meyer