Positive Mitzvah Fifty-Five

Slaughtering the Pesach-offering

Requires Beit HaMikdash

Shemot 12:6 You shall hold it in safekeeping until the fourteenth day of this month, they shall slaughter it - the entire community of Yisrael - between evenings [in the afternoon].

We are commanded to sacrifice the Pesach lamb on the 14th of Nisan.  Whoever fails in the observance of this Mitzvah, and willfully neglects to offer the sacrifice at its appointed time, incurs the penalty of extinction (karet), whether man or woman, and one of the most serious modes of punishment known to Jewish law but should not be confused with death by the hand of heaven.

The first Pesach-offering is obligatory upon women1, even as it is upon every man of Yisrael, and it overrides the Shabbat - it has to be offered on the 14th of Nisan even if it should fall on the Shabbat. 

The penalty of extinction is prescribed in His words, "But the man that is clean, and is not on a journey, and does not keep the Pesach, that soul shall be cut off [from his people]" (BaMidbar 9:13)

The Pesach-offering was the only exception to the rule prevailing in the Sanctuary that no offering of any kind was to be brought after the daily Olah-offering of the evening (Pesachim 58a). The ceremony observed in connection with this sacrifice is thus described in the Mishnah:

"The Pesach-offering is slaughtered [by the people] in three groups.  When the first group entered and the Temple Court was filled, the gates of the Temple Court were closed.  [On the Shofar] a sustained, a quavering, and again a sustained blast were blown.  The Kohanim stood in rows, and in their hands were basins of silver and basins of gold.  An Israelite killed [his own] offering and the Kohen caught the blood.  The Kohen passed the basin to his colleague, and he to his colleague, and each receiving a full basin and giving back an empty one.  The Kohen nearest to the Mizbeach (Altar) sprinkled the blood in one action against the base [of the Mizbeach].  When the first group went out the second came in; and when the second group went out the third came in. As the rite was performed with the first group, so was it performed with the second and the third.  [In the meantime the Leviim] san the Hallel (Tehillim 113-118).  If they finished it [before they finished the sacrificing] they sang it again, and if they finished it a second time they sang it a third time; but it never happened that they completed it three times" (Pesachim 64a).

1) This is not the case with the Second Pesach-offering (P57)