The paschal (goat or lamb) was a celebratory offer of thanksgiving to G-d. Passover (the Festival of Matzo) is an eight-day festival celebrated in the early spring, from the 15th through the 22nd of the Hebrew month of Nissan.
It had nothing to do with sin.
It had nothing to do with atoning for anything.
It commemorates the emancipation of the Israelites from slavery in ancient Egypt. And, by following the rituals of Passover, we have the ability to relive and experience the true freedom that our ancestors gained.
When we have a Temple, and can bring sacrifices, we are commanded to keep the goat or lamb for four days (Sh'mot / Exodus 12:3 - 6) from Nisan 10 to Nisan 14. It was slaughtered on the 14th, roasted and then eaten that same night (which was now the 15th of Nisan as days begin at Sundown).
The Passover aka paschal goat or lamb -- usually a goat -- (the פֶּ֛סַח / pesach) offer is mentioned in D'varim (Deuteronomy) 16:2: "You shall slaughter the (פֶּ֛סַח) paschal sacrifice to HaShem, your G-d, [of the] flock, and [the Festival sacrifices of the] cattle, in the place which HaShem will choose to establish His Name therein."
We do not bring the sacrifices now because we do not have the place which HaShem will choose. That "place" was the Temple, and we do not have a Temple thus we are forbidden from bringing sacrifices for now.
But note that the Passover sacrifice had to be kept for four days, slaughtered, roasted and eaten. . . as part of the festival.
Yes, Passover is a festival as in CELEBRATION. The festival sacrifices are mentioned in the verses in Numbers (Bambidar / Numbers 28:16 - 17 "The 14th day of the first month (Nisan) is G-d's Passover. Then, on the 15th day, a festival shall begin, when matzo (unleavened bread) shall be eaten for seven days." ).
A festival shall begin.
Not a sad time.
Not a time of sin and repentance and atonement.
The paschal lamb was not a sin sacrifice (other wise called a חַטָּ֖את -- a chatat -- is an offering for a "missing of the mark" or accidental sin.
Torah tells us clearly that the sacrifice is part of a CELEBRATION, a festival -- a rejoicing -- to remember our freedom from slavery.
Sh'mot / Exodus 12:14 "This day must be one that you will remember. You must keep it as a festival to G-d for all generations. It is a law for all time that you must celebrate it."
There it is again: festival.
Why did G-d command that we keep a goat or lamb for four days, then slaughter it, roast it and eat it?
It had nothing to do with sin and everything to do with showing our trust in G-d (that He would protect us from the Egyptians who would kill us for the very idea of killing and eating an animal they worshiped as a god. Moses says to Pharaoh: Sh'mot / Exodus 8:22 "What we will sacrifice to HaShem our L-rd is sacred to the Egyptians. Could we sacrifice the sacred animal of the Egyptians before their very eyes and not have them stone us?"
Torah says that the Passover sacrifice be a male-goat, be offered on an individual (per household) basis (Bamidbar / Numbers 28:22), not as a communal offering.
According to the Christian bible, Jesus death (termed a sin sacrifice) expiated the sins of mankind (Romans 6:10; Hebrews 9:12, 10:10, 10:18 ). Jesus is considered a "sacrificial lamb" and is called the "lamb of god" Ἀμνὸς τοῦ Θεοῦ, Amnos tou Theou; Latin: Agnus Dei is found in the Gospel of John1:29. John the Baptist sees Jesus and says, "Behold the lamb of god who takes away the sin of the world."
Then 1 Corinthians 5:7 in the Christian bible says "(Jesus), our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed."
Yet the Passover goat or lamb was a celebratory offering -- if Jesus died for sins as a sacrifice (ignoring that human sacrifice is forbidden) he can't be linked to the paschal sacrifice which had nothing to do with sin and everything to do with celebration!
Moses clearly tells Pharaoh (and us) that the animal to be sacrificed by the Jews is sacred (e.g. a G-d) to the Egyptians. The paschal lamb (or sheep) has nothing whatsoever to do with atoning for sins. In Egypt it was an affront to the Egyptians -- the slaughtering of their ram god. After the Exodus it was a remembrance and celebration.
Some say that the Egyptian Kevatim would worship the Zodiac sign of the sheep (what today we call Aries). To this end, they banned the slaughter of sheep and despised sheep traders and shepherds (Sh'mot / Ex.8:22, B'reshit / Genesis 46:34) .... By sacrificing their "god" (sheep / goat) the Jews were insulting the Egyptians and proving they trusted that G-d would protect them from the Egyptians as they insulted them. . .
There are other offers brought during the Passover holiday . They are mentioned in Bambidar (Numbers) 28:18-25. In addition to the various celebratory offerings—every festive occasion also had completely separate “atonement” offerings (sacrifices). These other sacrifices are all public, communal offerings that were made throughout the year for “atonement."
Not ONE of them was ever a lamb.
Nope, no lamb for "forgiveness of sins."
All holy days had a list of sacrifices some of which were sin, some guilt, some the daily offering, etc. The list of sacrifices also re-enforces the fact that atonement to G-d is an ONGOING process not a one time "last and final" sacrifice. That concept makes no sense since people make mistakes every day and mistakes often = accidental sins, or even perhaps more serious errors.
We are in the month of Elul, the last month of the Jewish year. It is the month proceeding Rosh HaShanah (one of four Jewish New Years) and the holiest day of the year, Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement). On Rosh Hashanah, each individual is judged on the merit of his deeds.
That is a scary thought isn't it? None of us are perfect. G-d is watching us always, but on Rosh HaShanah G-d determines our fate for the coming year.
And just before Rosh HaShanah is the month of Elul.
Elul is special for many reasons. As the month preceding the head of the year (Rosh HaShana), a time when G-d examines all of us and determines who shall live and who shall die in the coming year, we have time to reflect upon our lives. Although life continues. . . we go to work or school, we live as normally, we have an opportunity to examine our lives and think about the good and bad of our behavior.
We have the opportunity to seek out people we have wronged -- knowingly or unknowingly -- and ask for forgiveness. We can stop, take a moment, and change the entire course of our lives.
Jewish holidays have purpose -- we do not celebrate events (e.g. someone's birth or death). Each holy day, even happy and silly ones like Purim and Chanukah, are focused on G-d and His impact in our lives. His saving of the Jewish people (Passover, Purim, etc.) continue to save each Jew in a very real way. . . Look inside, and remember His words that He puts before us life and death, the blessing and the curse. . . choose life.
In Elul the R' Schneur Zalman of Liadi, founder of the Chabad Chassidic movement, made a wonderful analogy that helps explain the power of this month. He explained that G-d is always available to us -- He is always open to our prayers -- listening. We often call G-d אָבִינוּ מַלְכֵּנוּ / Aveinu Malcheinu (Our Father, Our King). While G-d IS our father, He is also our king. In R' Zalman's analogy, He explains that all year long we approach the King -- He is busy running the universe and we approach Him with awe. . .
In the month of Elul, continues R' Zalman, G-d figuratively leaves His palace and rather than waiting for us to go to Him, He comes to us. The analogy R' Zalman used was "The King is in the Field." He is very close to us, and He comes to us. "everyone who so desires is permitted to meet him, and he receives them all with a cheerful countenance and shows a smiling face to them all."
The four Hebrew letters of the word Elul (aleph-lamed-vav-lamed) are the first letters of the four Hebrew words אני לדודי ודודי לי / Ani l'dodi v'dodi lee – "I am my Beloved's and my Beloved is mine" (Shir Hashirim / Song of Songs 6:3). G-d loves us and we love Him.
In this month of Elul, open your heart. Look inside. Seek forgiveness from those you have wronged. If you are on the wrong path, consider your choices and make some changes. Remember that you are holy, for He is holy and He made you. In this month preceding Rosh Hashanah realize that G-d is reaching out to you with love. He wants you to know Him. He wants you to choose good over evil. He wants you to return to Him, as He comes to you in love. For more information about Elul, follow this link.
Sophiee Saguy has been countering false missionary claims about Judaism and the T'nach (Jewish bible) for nearly twenty years. You may find her on FaceBook and at the Messiah Truth forum.