Menachem Kuchar
  Follow theKuch on Twitter

The Samaritan Passover Sacrifice

The Samaritans practice a literal interpretation of the Torah, the five books of Moses, ignoring the Oral Law and Rabbinical understanding. Among their continuing practices is the sacrifice of the Pascal Lamb.

The Sacrifice takes place annually on Mount Grizim during the early Spring, the first month of the Samaritan calendar. The ritual slaughter takes place right before sunset and the Pascal Lamb is eaten at midnight in accordance with the Torah.

We went to Mount Grizim to watch the celebration in 2007 and again in 2010. In most years the Samaritan Passover coincides with our own. However as they intercalate independently of us, somethimes their pesach is a month after ours; or they may vary by a day or two from us due to our ensuring that Pesach not occur on Monday, Wednesday or Friday, days on which the Samaritan Pesach may occur.

Of primary interest to me are the similarities and the differences between their practice and those described in Rabbinic sources. I have written re the comparison of their pratice and ours.

We found the Samaritans very open and friendly, keen to explain their practice and how it is exactly what is required by the Torah.

A warning before you look at the photographs: the service includes the slaughter of about forty lambs. These are then prepared for cooking on large, sharp, two metre long skewers. Blood is smeared on foreheads of the participants, probably in memory of the blood smeared on the doorposts before we left Egypt, the night of the first ever Pascal Lamb. The innards are extracted and burnt on an altar. The carcass is salted and then cooked before the meat is eaten. Cooking can only start once all the innards and skins are burnt.

While viewing the photographs, keep an eye on what is happening in the background.

I hope that my photographs give a sense of the atmosphere at the event.

Korban Pesach on Mount Grizim in 5767 (2007)

Korban Pesach on Mount Grizim in 5770 (2010)

I have just added some additional, previously unpublished, photographs of the 2007 zevach

Visit to Yosef Cohen on Har Grizim to celebrate Sukkoth 5771 (2010)

Zevah Pesach in 5772 (2012). This year, as the day of the zevah (14th Nisan) was Friday, the ceremony took place at 1:00 p.m. (corresponding to true midday), rather than just before sunset, so as to allow all the work and cooking to be completed before shabbat.

This year, 5774 (2014), we visited the Shomronim for Shavuoth. This is the festival on which the celebrate, like the Jews, the giving of the Torah to the Jewish people on Mount Sinai. The read through the Torah during the night, starting at midnight, and then, as on three festivals, mage a pilgimage to the top of the mountain, stopping at various significant points.

I took photographs inside their synagogue, and then on top of the mountain. We left the synagogue at about 4:15 a.m., a little more than and hour before sunrise.

Sukkoth is described in the Torah as the "Ingathering Festival" and the Samaritans take this literally as well. They gather different types of fruit and vegetables and hang them from the ceilings of their houses, in ornate patterns and designs. They include in this the Jewish custom of the four species, adding them into the Succah ceiling.

In past times, they used to move out of their houses into booths, not unlike our Jewish practice. However, following years of persecution, they now remain indoors. They claim this is done even today as it is more convenient, especially if it rains. They may sit anywhere in the room, not being required to be directly below the "fruit ceiling".

I thought this was strange, that since they are no longer persecuted, why don't they return to their old custom and go outside. Then I remembered that many Jews still light their Hanuka candles indoors, even though there is no longer the persecution that caused us to light indoors in years gone by.

The Samaritans also take a literal approach to mezuzah, engraving a favourite biblical passage into stone, placing this in the vicinity of the entrances to their houses. They use the ancient Hebrew script for all their texts, including in their Torah scrolls. Today some of them also have a Jewish style parchment on their doors. These too are written using the ancient font.

Press here to view the photographs of Samaritan sukkot and mezuzot.

I have published three photo-books of some of these photogtaphs. These books are printed on "real" photographic paper and open very flat. You may view the books as well as purchase a copy.
They are:

  Follow theKuch on Twitter

Please enter your comments on this gallery to Menachem:

  Your name:  
  Your email:

Return to the Home Page