300 Goats and Sheep, 20 Slaughterers, One Willful Rabbi

Preparing for Sacrifice:
Yehudah Glick holds a goat
while Chaim Kanievsky, a
rabbinic authority, checks his
Neria Glick
Preparing for Sacrifice: Yehudah Glick holds a goat while Chaim Kanievsky, a rabbinic authority, checks his sources.

By Nathan Jeffay

Published April 13, 2011, issue of April 22, 2011.
  • Print
  • Share Share

Making Seder for the extended family seems like child’s play compared with Rabbi Yehudah Glick’s Passover preparations. The New York-born Glick is getting ready to lead world Jewry in a Paschal sacrifice April 18, the first night of Passover.

According to the Torah, the Children of Israel were commanded “in perpetuity” to sacrifice a young lamb or goat on the anniversary of the Exodus. But this sacrifice was to be conducted in the Temple, and was therefore suspended after the Temple’s destruction nearly two millennia ago.

Today’s Seders, with their many commemorations of the sacrifice, such as the shank bone on the Seder plate, are largely a tribute to the offering. The rabbis inserted the famous line “Next year in Jerusalem” at the end of the Haggadah to express the hope that subsequent Seders would take place in the Messianic era.

But Glick, who lives in Otniel, a Modern Orthodox settlement in the West Bank, claims that this declaration of hope is half-hearted without practical preparations. So with the backing of some influential rabbis, he has contracted farmers to provide him with 300 sheep and goats for the sacrifice, should the Messiah arrive. He also put 20 slaughterers on standby; and, for those who wish to take part, but who live outside Jerusalem, he made Seder-night accommodations within walking distance of the Old City.

Those who want a “share” of an animal so that they can take part in the sacrifice can purchase one over the phone, by credit card for 12 shekels, or about $3. At press time, 3,000 people had signed up.

“A person who is not prepared for the offerings is like somebody who invites all his friends to a wedding and waits until they arrive to make preparations,” Glick said, borrowing a rabbinic metaphor. “The concept of waiting for [the resumption of sacrifices] to happen is totally alien to Judaism; we have to be ready and express to God how badly we want it.”

The arrival of the Messiah isn’t Glick’s only hope for facilitating the sacrifice. He cites a minority rabbinic opinion, contending that the Passover sacrifice should take place with or without the Temple as long as Jews have access to Temple Mount. He is requesting permission to hold the sacrifice there, a request that, until now, the Israeli authorities have denied — apparently fearing an inflammation of Jewish-Muslim tensions.

While Israel deems the Temple Mount under its sovereignty, the site is managed by the Muslim Waqf, which, with Israel’s acquiescence, bans individual prayer by non-Muslims — and, by extension, mass communal sacrifices. Glick has twice petitioned the high court, without success, to overrule the police.

Last Passover eve, he and one of his goats were detained by police near Jerusalem’s Jaffa Gate. Officers suspected that he was going to try to sacrifice the goat in violation of the law; he insists that he is law-abiding citizen, and was only going to perform a mock sacrifice at an Old City synagogue.

Also angry about the state’s refusal to allow sacrifices on the Temple Mount is the Sanhedrin, a council of Orthodox rabbis who consider their group a revival of the ancient Sanhedrin of Jewish sages. “Israel claims that there is freedom for every religion — but except for the Jewish religion,” Sanhedrin secretary Dov Stein told the Forward. The Sanhedrin, which now operates the Committee Concerning the Passover Sacrifice, in 2007 issued a religious ruling saying that people are obliged to make the Passover offering whether or not the Messiah has arrived,

Until now, support for sacrificing regardless of the Messiah’s arrival was marginal. But in early April Glick received a call from the office of Chaim Kanievsky, son-in-law of the de-facto chief rabbi of Haredi Jewry, Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, and an acclaimed halachic authority in his own right. Kanievsky wanted Glick to visit his Bnei Brak home with one of the lambs he planned to sacrifice, and enter via the back door so as not to attract the attention of neighbors. He inspected the animal, asked questions about the program and gave his support.

The program also has the backing of Gershon Eidelstein, one of two senior heads of Ponevezh, a well-respected Haredi yeshiva in Bnei Brak, as well as several religious-Zionist leaders, including Haim Druckman, head of the Bnei Akiva network of yeshivas.

But Bar-Ilan University Talmud lecturer Jeffrey Woolf said that most Orthodox rabbis stand by the view that, from a religious perspective, there are “insurmountable obstacles” to making the offering today — including the absence of a high priest, and confusion over where exactly the altar should stand. Most are also wary because they know that sacrificing on Temple Mount would constitute “an invitation to a bloodbath.”

In the event of the arrival of the Messiah or a U-turn on the part of Israeli authorities, all will be free to watch the sacrifice but only people who paid to sign up to Glick’s program will be able to meet the biblical requirement of eating the sacrificial meat. They are guaranteed the religiously prescribed ounce of meat and a room in Jerusalem, if needed. Glick runs the program under the Chafetz Haim Holy Heritage Temple Foundation, a registered not-for-profit organization established for the purpose, and promises to distribute the subscription money to charities if the sacrifice doesn’t take place.

Glick launched his program two years ago, amid a surge of interest in preparation for a Third Temple. The previous year the Temple Institute, a Jerusalem not-for-profit, started preparing garments for priests to wear in a rebuilt Temple, tailoring them according to biblical specifications, and went on to create an altar.

Contact Nathan Jeffay at jeffay@forward.com

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.

Find us on Facebook!
  • Lusia Horowitz left pre-state Israel to fight fascism in Spain — and wound up being captured by the Nazis and sent to die at Auschwitz. Share her remarkable story — told in her letters.
  • Vered Guttman doesn't usually get nervous about cooking for 20 people, even for Passover. But last night was a bit different. She was cooking for the Obamas at the White House Seder.
  • A grumpy Jewish grandfather is wary of his granddaughter's celebrating Easter with the in-laws. But the Seesaw says it might just make her appreciate Judaism more. What do you think?
  • “Twist and Shout.” “Under the Boardwalk.” “Brown-Eyed Girl.” What do these great songs have in common? A forgotten Jewish songwriter. We tracked him down.
  • What can we learn from tragedies like the rampage in suburban Kansas City? For one thing, we must keep our eyes on the real threats that we as Jews face.
  • When is a legume not necessarily a legume? Philologos has the answer.
  • "Sometime in my childhood, I realized that the Exodus wasn’t as remote or as faceless as I thought it was, because I knew a former slave. His name was Hersh Nemes, and he was my grandfather." Share this moving Passover essay!
  • Getting ready for Seder? Chag Sameach! http://jd.fo/q3LO2
  • "We are not so far removed from the tragedies of the past, and as Jews sit down to the Seder meal, this event is a teachable moment of how the hatred of Jews-as-Other is still alive and well. It is not realistic to be complacent."
  • Aperitif Cocktail, Tequila Shot, Tom Collins or Vodka Soda — Which son do you relate to?
  • Elvis craved bacon on tour. Michael Jackson craved matzo ball soup. We've got the recipe.
  • This is the face of hatred.
  • What could be wrong with a bunch of guys kicking back with a steak and a couple of beers and talking about the Seder? Try everything. #ManSeder
  • BREAKING: Smirking killer singled out Jews for death in suburban Kansas City rampage. 3 die in bloody rampage at JCC and retirement home.
  • Real exodus? For Mimi Minsky, it's screaming kids and demanding hubby on way down to Miami, not matzo in the desert.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?

We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.