Dear Rabbi Simon,
I recently chanced upon an article in the Jewish Press. Two goats were slaughtered for the purpose of emulatingdemonstrating the Paschal Sacrifice. The demonstration was carried out under the auspices of the Movement for the Renewal of the Holy Temple and The Temple Institute at the Shmuel Hanavi Synagogue, Jerusalem.
The article can be viewed at http://www.jewishpress.com/news/jewish-news/pascal-sacrifice-exercise-yields-majestic-street-theater-in-preparation-for-passover-redemption/2012/04/03/. Viewing advisory: Some of the photos are fairly graphic.
I would like to ask a couple of questions: 1. Can "demonstrations" be halachically acceptable? 2. As there is no longer a Temple, isn't this activity ultra vires? 3. Have the goats experienced an empty death, devoid of purpose?
I would like to wish you and your family a Chag Sameach, Harvey
Thank you for your interesting and timely question, and for bringing to my attention a fascinating (and to my mind—notwithstanding the journalist’s enthusiasm–troubling) account of recent events in the Shmuel Hanavi neighbourhood in Jerusalem.
To answer your last question first (albeit in contravention of Avot 5:9): Since they were slaughtered in accordance with halakhah and subsequently consumed, I would not say that their lives or deaths were devoid of purpose. Had they met their end in some other way, in captivity or the wild, in any case they would have lived and died as goats.
Regarding your first questions, since it was only a demonstration rather than an attempt to implement the Paschal Sacrifice on the 14th of Nissan, strictly speaking it is not ultra vires. Nevertheless, its purpose was not for scholarly or educational reasons alone, but it definitely had a political and messianic agenda. For this reason I am uncomfortable with the whole exercise. This is the same group that has made priestly vestments for kohanim, made to measure. They are related to the group which has sought to reinstitute the Sanhedrin, all for the same messianic reasons. In my opinion such projects border on the cultish, and I do not believe they have widespread support among leading Torah authorities. (At the same time I am now announcing that they have been denounced. But I am not up to date for all the latest denunciations.)
No roasted goat on the Seder Night for me this year.
However: Next Year in Jerusalem.
Rabbi Rashi Simon