Sunday, April 06, 2014

Could we bring enough Korban Pesachs for everyone?

There is a chiyuv on every person to bring a Korban Pesach, in fact it is one of the 2 mitzvos aseh that you are chayav kares for not fulfilling. However, it is very difficult to see how the Jewish people could actually have ever fulfilled this mitzva in the practical sense and certainly with the population today (~14,000,000 Jews) it is hard to see how enough Korbanos could actually be brought.

The Gemara in Pesachim 64b states that King Agrippas wanted to take a census so he had the Cohanim count the number of Korban Pesachs that were brought and it came out to 1.2 million korbanos, 12 million people (10 to a korban).

1.2 million korban pesachs seem to be a very problematic number. There are a number of major issues:

  1. The Korban Pesach is only brought on the afternoon of the 14th of Nisan after the korban tamid is brought. The Mishna (58a) states that on Erev Pesach the Tamid was brought from 7.5 - 8.5. That leaves just 3.5 hours (8.5 -12) to bring the korban pesachs. That means that they had to sacrifice over 340,000 korbanos an hour, over 5700 a minute and over 95 a second. That is simply impossible.  Let's think about what needed to be done.
    1. shechita
    2. collect the blood
    3. sprinkle the blood on the mizbeach
    4. Skin the animal and take out the organs to be burned on the mizbeach.
    All of this at the pace of 95 a second??? Just for comparison a modern slaughterhouse kills about 1000 animals an hour, so in the time allotted could get to 3500 animals. 
  2. How could they possibly fit all of the people and animals in the Azara? The Gemara states that the Korban Pesach is brought in 3 shifts. 1.2 million korbanos means 1.2 million animals and at least 1.2 million people, even in 3 even shifts that is 400,000 people and animals a shift!!! The Beis Hamikdash was simply not that big the whole thing was 100 ama x 100 ama. Even assuming a large ama of 2 feet that is only 40000 sq feet. In addition the Kodesh Hakadoshim was 20 ama long which takes away 1/5 of the total space. In any case, not only does it not fit 400,000 people and animals, it doesn't even fit 40000 people and animals. In addition, moving 400,000 people into and out of a confined space takes hours, the whole 3.5 hours would have been taken up by simply trying to get the people in and out without having time to do anything.
  3. This leads to the question that given the dimensions of the Mishkan and the Beis Hamikdash and the number of people, how did everyone ever bring a korban pesach? The numbers just don't work. 
  4. As I mentioned above there are over 14 million halachic Jews today, more then in the time of King Agrippas, if Moshiach came now, how could we all possibly bring a korban Pesach in the 3.5 hour window on Erev Pesach
I have seen various answers suggested all very difficult:
  1. The numbers are an exaggeration. This is difficult for a number of reasons:
    1. Nowhere in the Gemara (or in any of the Rishonim/Acharonim that I saw) is there even a hint that these numbers are not real.
    2. Even much smaller numbers are unrealistic, even 1/10, 100,000 korbanos, is impossible
    3. How would we do the mitzva today if Moshiach came with the population numbers as they are?
  2. It was all a miracle. This is also very very difficult:
    1. The fact is, that on this very daf, indeed, just a few lines above, there is the famous machlokus between Rava and Abaye on ... are we allowed to rely on nissim. "Abaye said: it was taught that it was closed [referring to the gates of the azarah] , Rava said, that they closed it. What is between them? This is between them: to rely on a miracle.  Abaye who says that it was closed, like it was closed by itself and they relied on a miracle [to ensure there were two other groups].  Rava says they closed it, and we do not rely on a miracle. ..." If the entirety of the aliya laregal and particularly the korban pesach was ma'aseh nissim from beginning to end, then Rava's position is rendered untenable - nobody went into the Azarah for pesach without relying on countless miracles, so what is the closing of a door or allowing it to be closed in the grand scheme of things?   And generally machlokus Abaye and Rava we posken like Rava - so where does that leave us halacha l'ma'seh?
    2. This is quite a big miracle and yet nowhere in the Gemara or even the Rishonim or Acharonim do we have a hint about this very big miracle.
Here is another point to consider. In addition to the Korban Pesach which would have 10 or more people in a chabura there was a chiyuv on every male to bring an olas r'iya on the first day of Yom Tov, this is 1 korban per person, so if there were 1.2 million korban pesachs each with at least 10 people, that is at least 6 million olas r'iyas that needed to be brought.

In addition, there was the chagigas yud daled which was supposed to be brought to provide meat to eat at
the seder (especially if there were big chaburas for the korban pesach) plus additional shalmei simcha. This all adds up to hundreds of thousands if not millions of additional korbanos besides the Korban Pesach that needed to be brought at this time. It just doesn't seem possible.

Until now we have discussed how this could have worked in the Beis Hamikdash. However, Bnei Yisrael brought the Korban Pesach the second year in the Midbar as well. At that time there were only 3 Cohanim, Aharon and his 2 sons. The population was 600,000 men plus presumably 600,000 women, assuming even 20 people per chabura that leaves 60,000 korbanos. Even if the shechita was done by a non-kohen, 3 cohanim had to do all the other avodos, kabolos hadam, holacha, zerika, ... burningthe emurim on the mizbeach. That is certainly an impossible task for only 3 cohanim. Could 3 cohanim really be makriv tens if not hundreds of thousands of korbanos in a 3.5 hour window?


madaral said...

The whole thing is B'Machshava. Today we could have one Korban, broadcast to the world.

bluke said...

No, there is a mitzva on every person to eat a kzayis of korban Pesach

zdub said...

A kzayis isn't that much. 40 lbs of meat per 100 lb lamb (googling...). Four nice size olives to the ounce. That gives you more than 2500 mitzvah servings on a single lamb.

So you can serve over 3 million folks with only 1200 korbanot!

('Course you still have problems with organizing chaburot, the logistics of everyone staying in or near Jerusalem, etc.)

Avi Greengart said...

Selective miracles? Apparently fitting everyone into the azarah on Yom Kippur was an annual miracle.

Of course, then you have the problem that all miracles stopped just before we have corroborating contemporaneous historical accounts. But that's just a coincidence.

dlz said...

The olas r'iyah is brought the next day (Yom Tov), not at the same time as the korban pesach.

Sammy Finkelman said...

>> The Gemara in Pesachim 64b states that King Agrippas wanted to take a census so he had the Cohanim count the number of Korban Pesachs that were brought and it came out to 1.2 million korbanos, 12 million people (10 to a korban). <<

That's not what it says. It says that there was no Korban Pesach (that year) that did not have at least 10 people assigned to it.

It says they the Kohen Gadol took a kidney, and there were 600,000 pairs of kidneys, twice that of the number who went out of Egypt.

But 600,000 kidneys means 600,000 animals, not 1,200,000, if two are taken from each animal! And if only one is, we have a real problem, which the Gemorah goes into.

This is in the context of telling that no one was ever crushed to death in the crowds except one time one man was in the days of Hillel and they gave that Pesach a special name: the Pesach of teh crushed.

Then it tells of another Pesach that got a special name - the thick Pesach or the Pesach of the dense crowds - apparently because of the extremely huge crowd.

The Gemorah has a question on this story. How could the Kohen have taken a kidney from each animal - they are supposed to be burned - and furthermore, not mixed up together, one korban with another.they come up with an answer: it is possible he handled it and then it was set aside. And that's the end of the sugya.

I think, like too many other times, they settled on the wrong answer.

There is actually something wrong with the text of the Tosephta being quoted.

Sometimes that sort of thing is given as the answer, or a possible answer, so this is a fully legitimate connjecture, but it always a last resort.

Unfortunately, here, the Gemorah was satisfied that the text could be correct, but as you indicate, what they asked was not the only question that could be asked about that Tosephta!

I think what the Kohen Gadol counted up was the total number of people assigned to all the Korban Pesachs that year.

Remember, the people entitled to eat of it must be specified at the time of slaughtering: that is basic halacha everyone knows.

So it would be possible to keep a running total.

And here the word meaning kidney is a mistake - it must be some other word stemming from the root Kal - all - and it is not supposed to be the word meaning kidney.

Indeed the whole passage makes no sense with the word kidney.

Why add "excluding those who were unclean and those who were on a distant journey"

And what's the point of adding that no korban Pesach had less than ten people assigned to it.

The meaning is that they could not increase the number of lambs slaughtered beyond acertain point, so that had to add more people to each korban.

Here we have an illustration of what Rabbi Avigdor Miller said about secular Jewish historian - that they make stuff up. Garaet gets the idea that this census took place right before the Jewoish revolt and was done by Agrippa II to show the Romans how many the Jewish people were, and that there Gemorah is talking about only one Pesach and not two.

This is nonsense squared.

This clearly was done by Agrippa I who ruled 41 to 44 CE, when a Jewiosh monarchy was restored after the attempt by caligula to install an statue of himself in the Temple.

And the Jews would have been very happy, and also not afraid, and therefore an enormous number of people came that year. And Agrippa wanted to know how many.

And what with counting up pairs instead of the actual number - that's hwo they counted in those days, or perhaps they thought it was halachically more acceptable.

And if it had really been done in the year 66, there would have no reason for there to have been that year an exceptional cvrowd, nor ould the period of time stood after that been long enough for that pesach to get a special name, nor would that name have referred to the crowd, rather than to its being the last real one, nor would Josephus have left it out of his books, nor would anyone mix up Hillel into this.

Sammy Finkelman said...

And we must realize the portion each person ate in those days often were quite small. That's why there was also the Hagigah - not offered by everyone, but by some people - and that's part of the reason the Korban Pesach was left for last.

That was so someone from a different family/table would not eat from it as people used to go out in the meals to visit other people. Wikipedia to Afikoman says:

"The Jerusalem Talmud, however, derives the word afikoman from epikomion, meaning "after-dinner revelry" or "entertainment". It was the custom of Romans and Greeks to move from one party or banquet to another."

Now you understand what it says in the Haggadah. After the Korban Pesach you didn't go to anotehr family.

Ain maftirim acher HaPesach AFIKOMEN, (epikomen or epikomion [επί Κομός], And why they made it the last thing so the Korban Pesach wouldn't get mixed up with the other food. Afikomen probably acquired its seconadary meaning of "dessert" from this practice.

- Sammy Finkelman in New York.

Sammy Finkelman said...

About trying to get the people in and out: People entered through one gate and hey left through another. The Moshnah at Middos 2:2gives an illustration (for the case of the Har HaBayis itself).

bluke said...


The Gemara explicitly states that they brought 1.2 million Korbanos one year.

They went into the Har Habyis through different gates but they went in and out of the Beis Hamikdash through the same entrance.

Sammy Finkelman said...

The Gemorah (or rather the Tosephta which the later amoraim have questions on) says 1.2 million, without saying explicitly what that 1.2 million is, except that it is clear it should follow logically.

If it were korbanos, then the Kohen would have taken only 1 kidney from each and yet he somehow counted in pairs. If he took two from each, that should have been 600,000 korbanos.

I proposed that the 1.2 million is the total number of people assigned to all the korban pesachim slaughtered that year - and that they didn't allow any korban pesach to be brought that year that didn't have at least ten people assigned to it. (not that there were at least 10x 1.2 million, or 12 million people that year in Yerushalayim for Pesach.

To do this all you have to do is assume that one word in the Tosefta is not "kidney"

MiMedinat HaYam said...

josephus has a similar number like the gemara. (of course, bible (Talmud, in this case) critics will say josephus adopted the tosefta. except that he (supposedly) never does that elsewhere. also, josephus is considered historically accurate in matters like this.)