Will The Coming Of Moshiach Affect Passover?

Dear Jew in the City,

How will we celebrate Pesach after Moshiach comes?



Dear Isaac,
Thanks for your question, though I wonder exactly what prompts it. I have two hypotheses, which I’ll address separately.

  1. It could be that you’re asking whether Pesach will still be a holiday when Moshiach comes.

This is something we addressed a while back, though not regarding Pesach specifically. There is an idea – let’s tentatively call it a misconception – that the holidays will mostly be abolished in the Messianic era. The exception is Purim, because the Megillah says “these days of Purim will never cease among the Jews…” (9:28). Yalkut Shimoni (Remez 944) opines that this means to the exclusion of other holidays in Messianic times. (In the 20th century, Rav Moshe Feinstein ztz”l explained that “except for Purim” includes Chanukah, as the two are holidays of the same kind – Mesoras Moshe).

However, the Bnei Yissaschar and many other authorities don’t take literally the idea that the Torah’s holidays could ever be abolished. After all, it’s quite counter-intuitive that Moshiach’s arrival should cause us to do away with actual Torah mitzvos! Rather, the idea is that holidays commemorating the Exodus and the giving of the Torah will seem trivial when compared with the everyday wonders of life in the Messianic era.

So, if you ask me, Pesach (and Succos, Shavuos, etc.) will indeed continue to be holidays after Moshiach comes. (This is not just me taking sides in a debate – if it is in fact a debate – that would be above my pay grade. I have a reason to feel this way, which we’ll come to shortly.)

  1. It could be that you’re asking whether there will be animal sacrifices in the rebuilt Temple.

People attribute to the Rambam (and also to Rav Kook) the idea that there won’t be animal sacrifices in the third Temple. In fact, I have been misquoted as ascribing this idea to the Rambam, but I don’t believe that he says that at all.

The Rambam in Moreh Nevuchim (Guide for the Perplexed, 3:32) gives the following rationale behind animal sacrifices in the first two Temples: the practice was so firmly ingrained in the people as a form of worship that they wouldn’t be able to accept the idea of a religion without it. Therefore, rather than abolish the practice altogether, God severely curtailed it, only permitting sacrifices in the Temple and limiting them in numerous other ways.

Hearing this, one might logically conclude that, in the Messianic era, when animal sacrifices are thousands of years away from our experience and religious concessions are unnecessary, there would be no need of such offerings. This conclusion is in error for several reasons; I’ll give you two of them. 

The Rambam, in his Mishneh Torah (Hilchos Melachim 11:1), describes what Moshiach will accomplish. He writes:

The King Messiah is destined to arise and restore the Davidic dynasty… rebuild the Temple, gather the scattered of Israel, and return all the laws as they were originally. We will offer sacrifices and observe shemittah and yoveil (sabbatical and Jubilee years) like all the mitzvos stated in the Torah.

So Rambam is pretty explicit that, in the Messianic era, things will be as they used to be, including sacrifices. After that, we really shouldn’t need a second proof, but I’ll give you one anyway.

The Rambam authored a list of thirteen principles of faith, which he maintains are the things one must accept in order to be considered a Jew “in good standing.” The ninth principle is that the Torah simply does not change. Full stop. No ifs, ands or buts. So, if sacrifices were the rule in the first two Temples, they’ll be the rule in the third Temple. Even if the reason for sacrifices was a concession to human nature, once a mitzvah, always a mitzvah. 

People likewise believe that Rav Kook didn’t believe that there would be animal sacrifices in the Messianic era. This is based on a statement he made in his commentary on the siddur, but as with the Rambam, it ignores the majority of things that he wrote on the subject elsewhere, which suggest the opposite. It also ignores the fact that Rav Kook – a kohein – participated in classes that trained kohanim how to offer sacrifices when the Temple would be rebuilt.

Now, I promised you that I’d explain why I believe like the Bnei Yissaschar and others that Pesach will still be a holiday when Moshiach comes, despite a simple Midrashic reading that suggests otherwise. It’s because of Pesach Sheini (literally, “second Passover”).

“Second Passover” sounds like it’s Passover for Hobbits, but that’s not it. Pesach Sheini is a mitzvah in the Torah that those who were unable to offer the Passover offering in its proper time get a “make-up” date one month later. The ninth chapter of tractate Pesachim discusses the cases in which one might be entitled to offer the make-up sacrifice. In the Talmud Yerushalmi (Pesachim 9:1), one of the reasons given is if the Temple should happen to be rebuilt after Pesach but before Pesach Sheini. This is actually codified into law by the Minchas Chinuch (mitzvah 380) and others. The last Lubavitcher Rebbe mentioned this law several times (Likkutei Sichos vol. 12; Parshas Emor 5738).

So, if the Pesach Sheini will be offered should Moshiach come after Pesach, it’s pretty clear that (a) Pesach will still be a holiday and (b) there will still be animal sacrifices.

So, to answer your question (at long last!), when Moshiach comes, we’ll celebrate Pesach the way God intended: by offering the korban Pesach (the Passover offering) and eating it with matzah and maror.

I’d just like to mention a few more connections between Pesach and the Messianic era. After crossing the Red Sea, the Jews sang the Shirah (the Song at the Sea), which begins “Az Yashir Moshe uv’nei Yisroel es hashirah hazos laShem….” Typically translated “Then Moshe and the children of Israel sang this song to God…,” it actually says, “Then Moshe and the children of Israel will sing this song to God…!” Rashi on this verse cites the Talmud (Sanhedrin 91b) that this refers to the future resurrection of the dead, when Moshe and the children of Israel will again sing this song to God. (The resurrection of the dead is an event separate from the arrival of Moshiach, but it is part of the greater Messianic era scenario.)

Finally, many Chasidim celebrate the last day of Pesach with a meal called “Moshiach seudah.” This is a practice instituted by the Baal Shem Tov (the founder of Chasidism). The reason for this custom is explained by the Tzemach Tzedek as follows: the last day of Pesach concludes what started on the first night of Pesach. The first night celebrates the Jews’ salvation from Egypt, which God carried out through Moshe. That was the beginning of our redemption. The last day of Pesach anticipates our ultimate redemption, which Hashem will carry out through the Moshiach. Just as the first day of Pesach recognizes Moshe’s contribution, the last day of Pesach anticipates Moshiach’s contribution.

So, in short, the arrival of Moshiach will only enhance of observance of Pesach. Not only will the holiday not be stricken from the calendar, the korban Pesach will be restored to us so that we might celebrate the holiday in the optimum fashion.

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