by Oded Schwartz
The preparation for the Pascal sacrifice is complicated and very detailed - there is a whole Mishna - Psachim dedicated to it.The instructions of how to prepare the lamb are clearly stated in Exodus
12:6-12. The lamb or kid was slaughtered at sundown. Some of its blood was sprinkled with a bunch of ezov - Syrian marjoram (majorana syrica) (Exodus 12:22) on the posts of the tent. This ceremony could happen either in the Temple or at home.
The animal would then be skinned and opened. Although the biblical reference stipulates that the lamb should be roasted and eaten whole with the head and entrails, the stomach and the intestines were probably removed (otherwise they would have burst during roasting and tainted the meat, making it inedible). The liver and other internal organs were also removed and cooked separately or burnt as an offering as no trace of meat should be left for the next day.
The other stipulation was that the lamb would be kept whole with its head on and no bone should be broken and that all who were present should share the animal meat. The Mishna stipulates that at least a morsel the size of an olive should be eaten - not enough to satisfy hunger - an average lamb could feed about 10 people (so says the Mishna). That led, especially in large families to sacrificing another animal - chagiga, celebration.
This second animal was not considered as the Pascal lamb and could be left for the next day or carved and divided amongst the participants. The lamb was spitted whole and roasted over fire. In Psachim there is an elaborate discussion on what wood should be used to spit the lamb. The
recommendation is that pomegranate wood is the most suitable - it is the driest. All other woods contain moisture, even when dry and the fear is that the steam they release during roasting would steam-cook the lamb - cooking the Pascal lamb in water is forbidden.
A similar ceremony was conducted by the Samaritans.
Oded who is the author of seven books is best known for his hugely popular cookery and food-related writing. Oded's first book 'In Search of Plenty - a history of Jewish food' (1992) was short-listed for the British Andre' Simon award and won a special mention in the international "Lenghe Ceretto Prize" for food and wine culture. He now lives in Cape Town and contributes occasionally to Al'Hashulchan (a leading Israeli food & dining magazine). He is still researching and writing about the history and culture of Israeli & Jewish food.