By V. Littmann
Winter is ebbing, blossoming into spring. The days are becoming lighter and warmer. The entire Eretz Yisrael, carpeted with wild flowers, is a kaleidoscope of bright spring color. Pesach is approaching.
We long with an all-encompassing intensity, born of a deep, over 2,000-year-old yearning, to go to the Beis Hamikdash and bring the korban Pesach. It pains us deeply that so many years have passed since this marvelous mitzvah was performed in our holy and beautiful Beis Hamikdash, which is no more. We deeply desire the rebuilding of Hashem’s house and the arrival of Moshiach.
It is our heart-felt prayer that the s’chus (merit) we will have from studying how the Korban Pesach (Pesach sacrifice) was performed and some of its accompanying miracles will bring the Geula (redemption) closer and expedite the coming of Moshiach Tzidkanu. We should be privileged still this year to eat from the Pesachim and Zevachim (the two sacrifices eaten on the Seder night).
Arriving in Yerushalayim
The number of people who ascended to Yerushalayim on Pesach was greater than at any other festival, as the only place the korban Pesach, the Pesach offering, could be sacrificed was in the azarah – the courtyard – of the Beis Hamikdash.
Eating the korban Pesach is a positive, time-bound mitzvah. Women are usually exempt from such mitzvos, but eating the korban Pesach is an exception. As women experienced the Exodus from Mitzrayim with all its miracles, they, too, are obligated in its performance in the same manner as men. On the festival of Pesach women were also obliged to come up, to partake in the korban Pesach.
Anyone within thirty days’ (-/+ 900 miles) distance of Jerusalem who did not come and participate in the korban Pesach transgressed a positive mitzvah and was chayav kares, liable to be spiritually cut off from the Jewish people. Many people who were even further away also came, as they wanted to participate in this uplifting mitzvah. S o we find that on Pesach, most of Am Yisrael in their multitudes, converged on Yerushalayim.
Calculating the Numbers, Counting the Miracles
The Gemora in Pesachim 64b tells us that King Agrippas wanted a census of the number of oleh regel, to know how many pilgrims traveled to the Beis Hamikdash to bring a Pesach offering. As it is forbidden to count Jews, the Kohen Gadol advised him that the left kidney of each Pesach sacrifice be put aside and counted. Twice six hundred thousand (twice the number of males who came out of Egypt) -A full 1,200,000 Pesach sacrifices were counted through this method Each sacrifice had a chaburah, or group, of at least ten participants. Therefore, the minimum number of Jews in Yerushalayim that year was 1,200,000 times 10, which amounts to 12 million Jews. Rav Chiya says some sacrifices had groups of up to forty or fifty people participating, and Rav Bar Kafra says even a hundred could participate in a chaburah. This means that there were many more than 12 million people in Yerushalayim that Pesach . But for convenience’s sake we will work with the minimum count of twelve million yidden.
The heads of the Sanhedrin commanded the animal dealers to bring their sheep and cattle to Yerushalayim so there would be enough animals to sacrifice. They hurried joyfully to obey the Sanhedrin and drove their flocks toward Yerushalayim. The mountains and hills around Yerushalayim, as far as the eye could see and even further, seemed as if covered in sparkling snow, as the animals were so numerous.
It is an open miracle that 1,200,000 healthy male lambs or kids under a year old were found for the korban Pesach.
As it says in the Torah, “On the tenth of the month, each man shall take for himself a lamb for his father’s household, a lamb for a house” (Shemos 12:3). Therefore, each chaburah sent one of its members to be in Yerushalayim by the tenth of Nisan so the korban Pesach could be examined at least four days before it was slaughtered. Even though there is no obligation to remain in Yerushalayim after the first day of Yom Tov, most, if not all, of the people only went home after the festival was over. It was so uplifting and inspiring in Yerushalayim, who could go home?
The Sanhedrin made sure there was enough food for at least ten days for all the millions thronging to Yerushalayim. A person needs two kilograms of food per day. Multiply this by ten; i.e., twenty kilograms per person for ten days. Multiply this by 12,000,000 people, and you’ll see that 240,000,000 kilograms of food were needed! That’s in addition to the twelve million bottles of wine needed for the four cups consumed on the Seder night.
All the millions who had come up to Yerushalayim had to sleep somewhere. The Sanhedrin established a gemach of available apartments. Also, the inhabitants of Yerushalayim invited the oleh regel to their homes.
And somehow, miraculously, a minimum of twelve million people all fit into Yerushalayim with comfort and expansion during Pesach. Each one had lodgings with a bed to himself. No Jew ever complained that there was no place for him in Yerushalayim. Like a mother always finds room no matter how many children come to visit, so too with Yerushalayim.
One who had come in contact with a human corpse and was thus ritually impure from it could not bring the korban Pesach. To be purified, such a person needed to be sprinkled with mei chatas (red heifer ash mixed with spring water). There was a special street in Yerushalayim where people were sprinkled on the third and seventh day of their purification, called “Taharah Street.” Mei chatas was thrown from a window. The amount of water thrown was so great that the whole street resembled a great channel of water. People slipped when walking on this street from the sheer volume of water found there.
In order to ensure that they were ritually pure, every one of the 12,000,000 people in Yerushalayim immersed in a mikveh on Erev Yom Tov. It takes at least ten seconds to immerse. Twelve million times ten seconds equals one hundred and twenty million seconds. Divide this by sixty twice (first for minutes then for hours), then divide by twenty four, equals one thousand three hundred and eighty eight days which means that for all the people to do so would have taken at least three years and nine months of nonstop immersion!
As it neared two and a half hours after midday (three and a half hours before nightfall) people began streaming toward Har Habayis, the
, their korban Pesach in tow. Temple Mount
To direct the great mass of people entering the azarah, twelve leviim stood outside the entrance, each holding a silver stick. On the inside of the doors stood another twelve leviim with golden sticks. When about 530,000 people, with all their 530,000 lambs and kids, had entered, the gates closed miraculously by themselves. In spite of the fact that there were so many hundreds of thousands of people and so many hundreds of thousands of animals, everything ran smoothly, to perfection.
Inside the Beis Hamikdash
It must have been a truly remarkable and awesome sight: One hundred and twenty-six rows of hundreds of kohanim each spanned the distance between the place of slaughter and the north of the altar, forming lines across the width of the
courtyard. This arrangement gave the maximum amount of kohanim the ability to participate in this elevating mitzvah. Temple
Each kohen held a vessel designed to receive the blood, called a klei sharet. These cone-shaped containers were wide on top and tapered to a point. The bottom of the vessel was pointed so the cone could not be put down, thus preventing the kohanim from placing it on the ground which may have allowed the blood to congeal if left long enough. One row held silver vessels and another row held golden ones (Mishnayos Pesachim 5:5). The uniform appearance of the rows enhanced the festive spectacle, thus beautifying the mitzvah.
The kohanim were so nimble, the vessels flew from hand-to hand like arrows from a bow. The cones moved so quickly, it looked like bolts of gold and silver lightening were traveling through the azarah. A vessel full of blood would race up the row to the altar, where the contents were poured on the side of the Mizbei’ach above its base. It came back again empty, ready for re-use by the kohen, who gathered the blood of the korban Pesach, which was slaughtered by the yisrael. after the Yisrael had recited a bracha on the slaughtering.
Before the slaughtering began, silver trumpets were blown. Thousands of leviim stood on the duchan, accompanied by hundreds of leviim playing numerous different musical instruments. The soprano voices of the of the thousands of levite children mingled with the alto and the base of the adults. The strains of the music were heavevnly. The crowds joined in the singing with enthusiasm. The hundreds of thousands of Jews seemed like angels. Hallel was sung only twice in the first two shifts, and before each commencement of a new recitation of Hallel, trumpets were blown. A third round of Hallel was never needed. Imagine, about forty to fifty minutes to bring 530,000 sacrifices, and skin them all.
A little calculation shows that 10,600 kids or sheep were sacrificed each minute (530,000 sheep divided by 50 minutes = 10,600 sheep a minute. Divide this by 60 = 176 sheep per second. A rough calculation yields that each of the 126 rows slaughtered about three sheep in two seconds. This is less than a second per sheep.)
Even More Miracles
The Ezras Yisrael (Israelites’ courtyard )was 135 amos by 110 amos in size. This is 14,850 square amos (135x110 =14,850 sq amos), which according to Rav Chaim Na’eh is 67.5 meters times 55 meters, equaling 37,125 meters (67.5 m x 55 m = 37,125 sq m). A person takes up an amah by an amah, meaning that four people fit into a square meter. If we calculate, we find 35 men with 35 animals stood within a square amah (i.e., 140 men and 140 animals in a square meter) during the first two shifts. In this calculation, the administrating kohanim were not included, ( also it would seem that probably more then one person came form each chaburah, these extra people were not included in our calculations )
After the whole procedure, the gates of the azarah opened wide and the Jews jubilantly streamed out, their korban Pesach lifted high on their shoulders. They were replaced by the next group. (The Korban Pesach was brought in three shifts, as alluded to in Shemos 12:6.)
To realize the greatness of this nes, consider how long it takes to leave shul after Ne’ilah. If the hundreds of thousands of people had gone out at the slow “after Ne’ilah” pace, how many days would it have taken for them to leave the azarah? Yet, they all went out and were replaced with the new shift within a few minutes.
All the Yidden went home and roasted their Pesach sacrifices. The halachah mandates that the korban Pesach can only be roasted and eaten on the ground floor. Roofs and upper stories cannot be used (Pesachim 8). Yet, no pilgrim ever said he could not find an oven in which to roast his korban Pesach. How many ovens were there in Yerushalayim that there was never a pilgrim who did not find a place to roast his korban Pesach?
The wonderful night of the Seder is the holiest night of the year. The heavens are open. Brachah descends like a deluge of heavy rain. Hakadosh Baruch Hu, with His whole Heavenly court, comes down and listens to our Seder.
In the Yerushalayim of old, when the Bais HaMikdash was in existence, the Seder night was so exalted and stirring. People sang in praise and thanks to Hakadosh Baruch Hu all night, expressing so much joy and happiness for the Exodus, for having been chosen by Hashem to be the nation to sanctify Him, for having been chosen as His firstborn – such a glorious privilege. The outpouring of unrestrained simchah knew no bounds, and it seemed as if the ceilings in Yerushalayim were cracking from the sheer magnitude of people’s gratefulness. The roofs seemed to detach themselves and hover above the houses from the volume of the Hallel recited within. After the Seder, people went on their rooftops and continued dancing and singing and praising Hakadosh Baruch Hu all night.
On the morning after the Seder, every male over thirteen went up to the
where he sacrificed an olat re’iyah and a chagigah sheilmim. The 6,000,000 men and 12,000,000 animals packed into the azarah. Temple
It is hard to describe the glorious, thunderous sound of more than 6,000,000 people calling out with all their strength and might “Amen, Yehei Shmai Rabah!” The very foundations of heaven and earth shook and brought down so much brachah and goodness to the world. What a minyan that was ! ‘B’rov am hadrat Melech’ (in a great multitude is the King praised)
May the All Merciful help us to see, soon, with our own eyes, the rebuilding of Yerushalayim with its
, and that our ears should hear the great, rolling call in praise of Hakadosh Baruch Hu once again. Holy Temple
"ההלל" בהקרבת קרבן פסח – רב הלל בריסק
A Nation is born - Rav Avigdor Miller, זצ"ל
Torah Nation – Rav Avigdor Miller, זצ"ל
Guidelines to Pesach – Rabbi Elezar Barclay, shlitah
and Rav Yitzchak Jaeger, shlitah
The Art Scroll Mishnayos Seder Taharos Paro,
The Art Scroll Mishnayos, Seder Kodshim Tamid
The Art Scroll Mishnayos, Seder Kedoshim, Middos
The Art Scroll Mishnayos, Seder Moed, Pesachim
The Book of Our Heritage – Rav Eliyahu Ki Tov, זצ"ל
Three Special Days – Rav Yakov Meir Strauss, shlitah
Seven Special Weeks – Rav Yakov Meir Strauss, shlitah
Classes of Rav Raphael Auerbach, shlitah
Classes of Rav Shalom Meir HaCohen Wallach, shlitah
Tapes of Rav Shimshon Dovid Pincas, זצ"ל
Published in Israel in "Hamodia" 14 April 2011
In America in the Friday Hamodia 15 April 2011
In America in the Friday Hamodia 15 April 2011