Model of Temple Mount
Model of Temple MountiStock

Almost at the very end of the Mishneh Torah, in Laws of Kings and their Wars 11:4 (a passage censored out of most European editions of the Mishneh Torah), the Rambam (Maimonides) describes the tasks of the Mashiach (Messiah), what we expect him to do, and how we can identify the true Mashiach and distinguish him from all the false messiahs who have arisen from time to time.

The true Mashiach, he writes, will be a king descended from the Royal House of King David. Not a demi-god, not born of a virgin, not in any way miraculous or supernatural, but a mortal flesh-and-blood king, recognized as King by the House of Israel.

He will be guided by the Torah and keep the Mitzvot, being loyal to both the Written Torah and the Oral Torah (Mishnah and Talmud). He will force all Israel to keep the Torah (יָכוֹף כָּל יִשְׂרָאֵל לֵילֵךְ בָּהּ). Not politically correct, not “woke”, no religious freedom or pluralism.

He will fight the wars of Hashem, defeating all the enemy nations around Israel.

He will build the Holy Temple, or maybe complete its rebuilding, and ingather all Jewish exiles from the entire world into the Land of Israel.

Following this, he will perfect the rest of the world – that is to say, he will inspire the rest of the world to perfection by infusing them with belief in the One true G-d.

(This is the real Tikkun Olam, not the modern perversion of “tikkun olam” which is merely an ethnically Jewish version of woke political correctness, a la Tikkun Magazine.)

And then, having defined the task of Mashiach, the Rambam continues:

“Jesus the Nazarene (יֵשׁוּעַ הַנּוֹצְרִי), whom some imagined to be Mashiach and was executed by the Court, was already prophesied by Daniel, as he said ‘The blasphemers of your nation will exalt themselves in attempting to fulfil the vision, but they will stumble’ (Daniel 11:14). And is there any greater stumbling-block than him?! – Because as all the Prophets spoke, the Mashiach is Israel’s redeemer and savior, who will ingather their exiles and strengthen their mitzvah-observance; yet this one [the founder of Xtianity] caused [his followers] to destroy Israel by the sword, to scatter their remnants and to humiliate them, to change the Torah, and to lead most of the world astray into worshipping a god other than Hashem”.

The most fundamental claim of Xtianity is that the founder of the faith was crucified on the first day of Pesach as the ultimate, perfect, and eternal Passover Sacrifice who would atone for the sins of everyone who would believe in him. (See endnote)*

The Pesach Sacrifice is commanded in Parashat Bo:

Hashem spoke to Moshe and Aharon…saying…: Speak to all the Congregation of Israel, saying: On the tenth of this month they shall take to themselves – every man – a lamb or kid [שֶׂה, the Hebrew word includes both species]…and they will keep it guarded until the fourteenth day of this month, and then they will slaughter it…in the afternoon” (Exodus 12:1-6).

This was the first Pesach Sacrifice, which our ancestors offered in Egypt. It was an act of desperate courage, defying the Egyptians for whom the lamb was the god they worshipped. Slaughtering their god inevitably infuriated the Egyptians – and the Midrash describes their fury and frustration:

“When the Egyptians entered [the Jews’ houses] and saw [the lambs], they would go out of their minds” (Pesikta de-Rav Kahane, Parashat HaChodesh).

And then on the 14th of Nisan, “when [the Jews] slaughtered the Pesach Sacrifice, the Egyptians gnashed their teeth – but they couldn’t say anything, because the fear of the Jews was upon them” (Midrash Lekach Tov).

So the Pesach Sacrifice, as well as demanding immense faith and trust in G-d and immense courage, was also the final smashing of the psychological slavery: for generations, the Jews enslaved in Egypt had been conditioned to view their Egyptian overlords as their natural masters. The Pesach Sacrifice was a massive act of defiance, erasing that conditioning.

Whatever else the Pesach Sacrifice did, it most emphatically did not atone for any sins. There are other sacrifices for that:

To atone for specific and known sins we have the קָרְבַּן חַטָּאת (sin-offering) which atones for accidental sins (see for example Leviticus Chapter 4), and the קָרְבַּן אָשָׁם (guilt-offering) which atones for deliberate sins, providing of course that the sinner had truly repented first, had made appropriate restitution for his sin, and had resolved never to commit his sin again (see for example Leviticus 5:14-16).

To atone for more general sins we have for example the Yom Kippur Sacrifice (see Exodus 30:10, and Leviticus 16 and 23:26-32), and the Mussaf offerings of Pesach (Numbers 28:22), of Shavuot (v. 30), and of Rosh Hashanah (29:5).

And then there are sacrifices which do not atone for any sin: the זֶבַח תּוֹדָה (Thanks-giving Offering), for example, which a Jew would sacrifice to thank G-d for surviving a dangerous event, such as recovering from a life-threatening illness; and the שְׁלָמִים (Peace Offering), which a Jew would bring when he spontaneously wished to get closer to G-d; and the פָּרָה אֲדֻמָּה (the red cow) which a Jew would bring to be cleansed of the spiritual contamination resulting in coming into contact with a human corpse (Numbers 19).

The Passover Sacrifice is in this category: it doesn’t atone for sins, that’s not its function, it belongs in an entirely different system. The original Passover Sacrifice which G-d commands us in Parashat Bo was, as we explained above, an act of desperate courage, a display of unwavering faith and trust in G-d, and a psychological release from generations of conditioning to Egyptian slavery.

And all the subsequent Passover Sacrifices in all the subsequent centuries recalled that act of desperate courage.

In Judaism, it has nothing to do with atonement for sin, or forgiveness of sin.

So the belief that the founder of Xtianity was the ultimate, perfect, and eternal Passover Sacrifice who atones for the sins of everyone who believes in him is an innovation.

There are any number of technical problems with this belief:

  • We invariably sacrifice to G-d, we don’t sacrifice G-d Himself;
  • The sacrifices have to be specified animals, in the case of the Passover Sacrifice a lamb or kid, certainly not a human being which is against Jewish law..
  • The Passover Sacrifice had to be brought in the Mishkan (the Tabernacle), later in the Holy Temple or its precincts, not on a hill outside of Jerusalem;
  • The Passover Sacrifice had to be slaughtered according to a specified method, which was manifestly not crucifixion;
  • Only a Jew could bring the Passover Sacrifice, not Roman soldiers;
  • The Passover Sacrifice had to be slaughtered on the afternoon of the 14th of Nissan, the afternoon before the Seder Night, not on the first day of Pesach.

But over and above all these is the basic purpose of the Passover Sacrifice. Xtianity stands and falls on the belief that its founder was sacrificed as the Passover Sacrifice to atone for the sins of everyone who would believe in him.

But the Passover Sacrifice doesn’t atone for sins.

This idea could only have originated with someone who either didn’t understand much about Jewish law, someone who deliberately wanted to ensure that no Jew who understands Judaism could be seduced into Xtianity or someone who was using a non-fact based. metaphor..

*Editor's Note: In the New Testament this verse can be found: "Throw out the old leaven, so that you will be a new batch, because Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed" (1 Corinthians 5:7). The motif of Jesus as a Passover sacrifice who died for the sins of mankind runs throughout Xtianity. For a very brief summary, see