Sacred Texts  Judaism  Index  Previous  Next 
Buy this Book at

The Union Haggadah, ed. by The Central Council of American Rabbis [1923], at

p. 143

Survivals of the Ancient Passover


The observance of the Passover by the Samaritan sect, native to Samaria, the central region of Palestine, casts much light upon this institution in biblical times. James A. Montgomery gives this interesting outline of the function:

"The solemnity is a veritable Haj, or pilgrim feast. The whole community proceeds to the place of sacrifice on Mount Gerizim, allowing abundance of time for the preparations. The tents are pitched, and all eagerly await the appointed hour, which occurs at sunset,—for so the Samaritans interpret the phrase 'between the evenings'. * A number of lambs have been carefully selected from those born in the preceding Tishri, and of these so many as will suffice for the worshippers are destined for the sacrifice, generally from five to seven, although others are at hand in case anyone of them is ritually unfit. Some hours before the sacrifice two fires are started in the trenches; in one of them a caldron is heated for boiling the water necessary to fleece the lambs, in the other a mass of fuel is kindled to make the oven for roasting the lambs. All these preparations are in the hands of young men, ** who sometimes are clad in blue robes. Coincident with the starting of the fire, the service begins and

p. 144

this is kept up until the lambs are put into the oven; it consists in the reading of the Passover lections from Exodus, and ancient Passover hymns. A certain number of representative men render the antiphons. In the service all turn toward the Kibla, the top of Gerizim. At sunset the sacrifice takes place, not on an altar but in a ditch; the throats of the lambs are deftly cut by a young man, not by the priest. The ritual inspection then takes place, the sinews of the legs are withdrawn, * the offal removed, and the lambs fleeced by aid of the hot water. The lambs are then spitted with a long stick run through their length, and are conveyed to the heated oven, over which they are laid, the spits protruding on either side, while above them is laid a thick covering of turf to seal the oven. The process of roasting takes three or four hours, during which time the worshipers may rest, the service being mostly intermitted. When it is deemed the proper time, the lambs are withdrawn, and present a blackened and repulsive aspect. A short service then ensues, the congregation now appearing with their loins girt up and their staves in their hands, ** and when the service is over, veritably 'eat in haste', for they fall ravenously upon the coal-like pieces of flesh, devouring it and taking plattersful to the women and children, who remain in the tents. When all the flesh is consumed, the bones, scraps, wool, are carefully gathered up, and thrown into the still smoldering fire, until all is consumed, 'so that none of it remain till the morrow'. After the meal ablutions take place, and the ceremony is concluded with further prayers and chants. According to the prescriptions of Numbers IX, the 'Second Passover' is allowed.

p. 145

"In close connection with the Passover is the feast of Unleaven, or Massot, which is reckoned as the second sacred feast, being distinguished from the Passover, although coincident with it, according to the language of the Law. On the 13th of the month a careful search is made for all leaven, which is scrupulously removed, and from the 14th day till the 21st no leaven may be eaten. The 21st is the great day of this feast, and on it they make pilgrimage to Gerizim, reading through the book of Deuteronomy on the way and at the village Makkada, where they finally halt."

The Samaritans, pp. 38-40.


The Jews of Abyssinia, known among their neighbors as Falashas, according to Dr. Jacques Faitlovitch, who has visited them and has pleaded their cause before the Jews of Europe and America, celebrate the Passover "for seven days, and during this time they eat only unleavened bread and do not drink any fermented drinks. Several days before the feast, the homes are carefully cleaned, all articles of clothing are properly washed, and all vessels and utensils thoroughly scoured and cleaned like new. Three days before Passover, they stop eating leavened bread and take nothing but dried peas and beans, and on the eve of Passover they abstain from all food until after the sacrifice of the paschal lamb. On this day, a little before the setting of the sun, all assemble in the court of the synagogue, and in the name of the entire community, the sacrificer offers the paschal lamb upon the altar. The ceremony is observed with great pomp; the ritual prescribed in the Bible for this sacrifice is followed punctiliously, and after the sacrifice is slaughtered and roasted, the meat is eaten with

p. 146

unleavened bread by the priestly assistants. It is in this manner that the festival is inaugurated. On the following days they assemble in the Mesgid ('the place of prayer') at fixed hours, observing a special ritual and reciting various prayers and biblical texts having reference to the Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt.

American Jewish Year Book, 5681. p. 89.


143:* Exodus XII: 6.

143:** Cf. Exodus XXIV: 5.

144:* Genesis XXXII: 32.

144:** Exodus XII: 11.

Next: Passover and Christendom