During a virtual conference on Wednesday, Rabbi Aryeh Stern, the chief rabbi of Jerusalem, ruled that the Korban Pesach (Passover sacrifice) is incumbent upon the Jewish people today.
The conference, the second of its kind, was focused on preparations for the performance of the mitzvah (Torah commandment) of the Korban Pesach. Rabbi Stern presented a lesson on the laws pertaining to the question of whether or not the Pesach offering can, or, in fact, should be brought in current times, given the universal state of ritual impurity and the lack of a red heifer to cope with this hurdle.
Rabbi Stern began his lesson by emphasizing the special nature of the Korban Pesach in being both an offering by the individual as well as a public offering.
“The Passover sacrifice is similar to the feast offerings in that it is offered for all of Israel at one set time,” Rabbi Stern said. “But it is incumbent upon the individuals who are required to acquire it with their own funds and to eat from it. In this respect, all of Israel become similar to the priests who eat from the sacrifices.”
The rabbi concluded that in his opinion, it is possible for us today to perform the Passover sacrifice even before the construction of the Temple. This is based on the principle the normal rules that prohibit the Kohanim (priests) and public from performing Temple rituals while in a state of ritual impurity are not applicable regarding the need to bring a sacrifice for the sake of the public. In this case, when a Temple does not exist, an altar of undressed stones is sufficient.
The Bible specifies that the altar must be made of unwrought stone. The Mishna (oral law) explains that this is due to steel, commonly used to carve and hew stone, is used in weapons and therefore meant to shorten life and the altar is intended to lengthen life.
And if you make for Me a mizbayach of stones, do not build it of hewn stones; for by wielding your tool upon them you have profaned them. Exodus 20:22
In the Talmud, it is explained that steel may not be used to cut the stones of the altar since the Temple Service brings life into the world and steel, as it is used in war, takes life.
The rabbi clarified that he did not intend to enter into political considerations but that it was important for the nation to know that there is a rabbinic agreement among the majority of the major rabbis in the current and in previous generations, among them significant halachic (Torah law) authorities like the Chatam Sofer, Rabbi Akiva Eiger, and Rabbi Tzvi Hirsh Kalisher.
It should be noted that there are only two mitzvot (Biblical commandments) for which non-compliance receives the most severe punishment mandated by the Torah, karet (being cut off from the community, or excommunicated): brit milah (circumcision) and the korban Pesach (Passover sacrifice).
Rabbi Aryeh Lipo, the secretary of the Sanhedrin, agreed with the conclusion of Rabbi Stern, adding that it is entirely correct according to Halacha to renew the Temple service immediately. He added that one clear purpose of the Temple service was to cope with epidemics.
“Despite various issues of Jewish law, such as ritual impurity and lack of a high priest, Jews are still required and technically able to bring the sacrifice,” Rabbi Hillel Weiss, the former spokesman for the Sanhedrin told Israel365 News. “The only thing preventing the Jewish People from performing the Passover sacrifice is the Israeli government. If the government decides to allow it, we must be ready to go up and begin the service.”
The rabbi cited the Prophet Haggai, noting a parallel to our current situation.
Thus said the lord of Hosts: These people say, “The time has not yet come for rebuilding the House of Hashem.”And the word of Hashem through the Navi Chagai continued:Is it a time for you to dwell in your paneled houses, while this House is lying in ruins? Haggai 1:2-4
“Hashem (God, literally ‘the name’) performed a miracle and brought the Jews back from the exile, making the desert bloom, and creating a flourishing country,” Rabbi Wess said. “Now we must do what is required, and for now that means being ready to begin the Temple service.”
The Sanhedrin performed an intense study concerning the current status of the Passover offering and concluded that at this juncture, one sacrifice made at the Temple Mount brought in the name of the entire Jewish people would suffice.