Tag Archives: lamb

The Paschal Sacrifice: Going in on the whole lamb

Lamb_BW_blogRecently a good friend of mine emailed me a photo of a lamb with only the subject line: “Want to share one with me?” My first thought was she wanted it as a pet, but after a few emails I understood that she needed to know if I would share half of it with her (the meat, that is). My first reaction was one of discomfort. A whole lamb reserved just for us? It felt wrong and sad (and the cute and fuzzy photo she had sent didn’t help). But then I thought about God’s commandment to the Israelites to sacrifice a lamb the night before their big exodus from Egypt, and how since then its consumption has become such an integral, even holy part of the Seder meal. I also thought about the stories from several individuals who recalled their traumatic experiences as children: “One spring my father brought home a lamb, who then became our pet. We would feed it and play with it in the backyard. But then one month later (the day before the Seder) the shochet arrived at our door and we knew what was going to happen. It was a terrible experience,” shared one individual from Iran. “My sisters, and brothers and I used to keep him on our terrace and feed and pet it. Then one day it was gone and it wasn’t until the Seder meal that we understood. It was very hard for us,” shared another from Morocco. In fact it was not uncommon in the Middle East for several family members to go “wholesale” and order an entire lamb that they could share for the holiday week, while others in poorer communities might have shared one between several families. The main thing was that you ate some amount of lamb to fulfill this mitzvah of the sacrifice (and remember our ancestors’ freedom from Egypt).

Now that Passover is upon us, and my freezer is filled with half of a lamb, I feel more pressure to find and develop appropriate recipes for each piece. It’s not the same thing as simply going to your local butcher and purchasing a few (“anonymous”) pounds of the same cut. There is some responsibility now in using every piece and not letting any go to waste. Corny as it sounds, going in on the whole lamb feels much more personal.

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Time to sort the rice: Let the preparations for Pesach begin!

Rice_BlogNow that Purim is over, many individuals begin their Passover cleaning as early as today, one month before the holiday begins. It can be a meticulous period, especially if you have a large house with multiple rooms and floors. One of the most time consuming and important tasks to complete for many of the communities that I had interviewed was the process of sorting and cleaning large quantities of rice for the holiday, as it needed to last the entire week for the whole family. Some individuals even explained how it could take weeks to do, as only small portions would be sorted through each day, grain by grain, only to be sorted again two more times before being considered clean for Passover. While many may only do a good cleaning a week or just days before, I spoke to some individuals who went as far as the following in their homes:

Iran, Syria, India, Iraq: The purchasing and sorting of rice grains (this could take several weeks to do as each grain was individually checked, discarding any broken pieces or grains of wheat that might have gotten mixed in).

India: Purchasing, sorting, roasting, and grinding of fresh spices
(this may have been done as early as 2 months ahead!)

Morocco: Removing the stuffing from all pillows and mattresses, washing the outside cases,
then re-stuffing them with new, fresh cotton (that has been sorted for cotton seeds or bugs).

Ethiopia: Making all new ceramic dishes, bowls, cups, and even pots by hand in time for the holiday
(the previous year’s dishes and pots would ALL be broken then discarded a few days before Seder).

Egypt, Morocco, Iran: Washing and painting of all the interior walls of the house.

Yemen, Egypt, Iran: Buying a young lamb and raising it on the terrace or in backyard before slaughtering it for the Passover Seder night (this might have started 2 months before).

QUESTION:
How early did your family start preparing for the holiday,
and what were the first things that you would do?

The Sacrificial Egg and the Paschal Lamb: When Passover and Easter Cross Paths

Egg_Brown_Korban

The “Korban Chagigah,” or Festival Sacrifice
(Made with Coffee Grounds and Onion Skins)

According to the Torah, the Paschal (or Passover) lamb (also known as the Korban) was first sacrificed and then offered to God the night that the Israelites began their Exodus out of Egypt. The blood from this lamb was then used to paint a marker on the door posts of the home of each Israelite as a sign to God that he should pass over their home as he went to slay each firstborn Egyptian boy. It is for this reason we eat lamb on Passover, and according to this direct translation in the New Oxford Annotated Bible, even the instructions on how to prepare the lamb (“roasted,” NOT boiled please!)  is very clearly commanded by God:

Exodus 12: The Lord said to Moses
and Aaron in the land of Egypt,

“This month (Nisan) shall be for you the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year for you. Tell all the congregation of Israel that on the tenth day of this month they shall take every man a lamb according to their father’s houses, a lamb for a household… and you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month (Passover), when the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill their lambs in the evening. Then they shall take some of the blood, and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat them. They shall eat the flesh that night, roasted; with unleavened bread and bitter herbs they shall eat it. Do not eat any of it raw or boiled with water, but roasted… It is the Lord’s Passover. For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will smite all the first-born in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgements: I am the Lord. The blood shall be a sign for you, upon the houses where you are; and when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague shall fall upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt.”

According to one source (History.com) many of those Jews who later converted to Christianity continued this Passover ritual of roasted lamb for Easter (the day of the resurrection of Jesus Christ), referring to it as the “Lamb of God”. Easter takes place around the same time as Passover does each year, and some scholars believe that the Last Supper, which supposedly took place the night before Jesus’s crucifixion, was in fact a Passover dinner.

Egg_Painted_BlogAs a symbol for life, rebirth, renewal, spring, and eternity since ancient times, the art of egg decoration predates Christianity. According to some sources (see History.com), Mesopotamian Christians began dying eggs red for Easter to recall the blood of Christ, a tradition which carried on to Eastern Europe and evolved into painting the eggs in decorative colors and patterns. Eggs also play an important role on the Seder plate for Passover. This roasted egg is known as the Korban Chagigah (“festival sacrifice;” see photo at top of post) to symbolize the mourning over the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem (by the Romans in
70 C.E./A.D.), and our inability to make a proper lamb/meat sacrifice to God since then. The egg (representing life) is dipped into salt water symbolizing our tears of mourning, as well as those of our ancestors.

For those of you celebrating Easter or Passover:
Do you serve lamb for the holiday? If so, how do you prepare it?
Do you have any special traditions that use eggs (such as hiding them or decorating them)?
What do you know about the meaning of eggs and lamb during this holiday?

The Second Night: An All Meat Seder Dinner

Brisket_Blog1

Sephardic Style Brisket with Tamarind,
Coriander, Cinnamon, Ginger,
Apricots and Prunes

Any Carnivores out there? What was your meat of choice: Lamb, Beef or Veal?

For the second night we decided to have a much smaller Seder dinner for us carnivores. We didn’t really read the Haggadah this time, but Micah, my four-year-old insisted that we at least read the basic story as a review.

Here was the menu:
–Leftover charosets with matzah pieces on the side: (Syrian Apricot, Yemenite Date-Almond-Pomegranate, Grandma Fritzie’s Apple Butter with Sweet Wine and Walnuts)

–Vegetable Soup with Matzah Balls

–Jeff’s Cucumber Salad
(even better the next day!)


Sephardic Style Brisket with Tamarind, Onions, Coriander,
Cinnamon, Ginger, Apricots and Prunes

(Yikes! Third time that I made this brisket this week: once for me and twice for two different clients.)

–Syrian White Rice with Pine Nuts (from the first night)

–Chocolate Dipped Dried Apricots, Dates, and Figs,
with Blood Orange Sorbet

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