Article on pesaḥ by Mira Balberg and Simeon Chavel

Although it is quite long, I recommend reading the article titled “The Polymorphous Pesach.” Here is a summary of the article:

Despite points of critical clarity in the scholarly tradition, the biblical account of Exodus 12 continues to be treated as a sufficiently coherent story of origins that relates how the Passover festival and the pesaḥ ritual were established and what makes all subsequent performances reenactments. This article surveys ancient literature presenting or invoking the pesaḥ, from its very first representation in biblical literature up to the debates about it in the Hellenistic and Roman periods, to show that the pesaḥ is an instance of “repetition without origin” and one that problematizes the very notion of reenactment. The article demonstrates that successive authors and editors do not provide any clear sense of how the pesaḥ was done in their time or what the general tradition was as to its origins; the original version was itself already fragmentary and unworkable; subsequent work to recast and re-present it is always interpretive and re-interpretive in nature, is conditioned by the argument of the larger literary work, and advances contradictory views. Because the early sources construct the pesaḥ in so many opposing ways, subsequent readers had unusual liberty to interpret and retold this important practice in whatever shape best suited their needs and understanding. The survey illustrates how completely the pesaḥ foils the attempt to write its history both as a practice and as a literary tradition, but also how it generated a long and rich history of creative thought around itself.

Mira Balberg and Simeon Chavel, “The Polymorphous Pesah: Ritual Between Origins and Reenactment,” in Journal of Ancient Judaism 8 (2017), 292-343.

The article is available via Simeon Chavel’s Academia page.

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