Is the Seder a Tale of the Exodus or a Reenactment of Ancient Sacrifice?

The Passover seder has its origins in the ritual meal described in the Pentateuch, in which families consume the meat of the paschal sacrifice together with matzah and bitter herbs. In the text of the Haggadah itself, there are a few reminders that the entire seder is, in the absence of the Temple, nothing more than an imitation of that sacrifice. And that leads Yosef Lindell to ask a question: why did the authors of the Haggadah choose to focus on the retelling of the story of the Exodus rather than on the details of the paschal offering? An alternative view, Lindell observes, is actually discussed in Tosefta, a talmudic-era work of Jewish law containing numerous rejected and non-authoritative teachings. (Lindell’s essay was first published in 2023.)

“A person must engage in the laws of the paschal offering all night, even if it is just him with his son, even if it is just him by himself, and even if it is just him and his student.” [The Tosefta] then cites a story supporting this position: “Once, Rabban Gamliel and the elders were reclining in the house of Boethius ben Zonin in Lod, and they were occupied in studying the laws of Pesah all that night, until the cock crowed. They lifted the table, made themselves ready and went to the house of study.”

If this story sounds familiar, it’s because it is quite similar to the one in the Haggadah about the five rabbis in Bnei Brak who “were telling the story of the Exodus from Egypt that whole night, until their students came and said to them, ‘The time for [reciting] the morning sh’ma has arrived.’” But in the Haggadah, it is those who discuss the story at great length who are praised, not those who study the paschal offering’s laws. The Haggadah thus makes its rejection of the Tosefta’s position rather explicit.

But I also think that the reason we do not talk more about the paschal offering is because telling the story of the Exodus is actually a meaningful way of putting the Temple front and center. In other words, . . . we focus on the story at the seder precisely because we are now in exile and telling about the miracles of the Exodus gives us hope for the future. Surely, if God redeemed us once, He can do it again. Focusing on the story instead of the sacrifice does not diminish the Temple’s centrality.

Read more at Lehrhaus

More about: Passover, Seder

Only Hamas’s Defeat Can Pave the Path to Peace

Opponents of the IDF’s campaign in Gaza often appeal to two related arguments: that Hamas is rooted in a set of ideas and thus cannot be defeated militarily, and that the destruction in Gaza only further radicalizes Palestinians, thus increasing the threat to Israel. Rejecting both lines of thinking, Ghaith al-Omar writes:

What makes Hamas and similar militant organizations effective is not their ideologies but their ability to act on them. For Hamas, the sustained capacity to use violence was key to helping it build political power. Back in the 1990s, Hamas’s popularity was at its lowest point, as most Palestinians believed that liberation could be achieved by peaceful and diplomatic means. Its use of violence derailed that concept, but it established Hamas as a political alternative.

Ever since, the use of force and violence has been an integral part of Hamas’s strategy. . . . Indeed, one lesson from October 7 is that while Hamas maintains its military and violent capabilities, it will remain capable of shaping the political reality. To be defeated, Hamas must be denied that. This can only be done through the use of force.

Any illusions that Palestinian and Israeli societies can now trust one another or even develop a level of coexistence anytime soon should be laid to rest. If it can ever be reached, such an outcome is at best a generational endeavor. . . . Hamas triggered war and still insists that it would do it all again given the chance, so it will be hard-pressed to garner a following from Palestinians in Gaza who suffered so horribly for its decision.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict