The lamb’s blood was a marker for the Angel of Death so that he would pass over the Hebrew’s houses and slay the first born in only the Egyptian’s houses. When I was 10, I had a paper route and I was able to find my customers’ houses without benefit of blood markers, but the God of Biblical times was a bit over the top. (Any God who uses cutting off a bit of penis as a contractual covenant obviously favors the dramatic gesture).
The blood smearing is one of those elements of the Passover origins that we forego these days. What with lambs being scarce in the ‘burbs and the concerns about food borne illnesses, it’s just as well. We also don’t make much of a deal about the shoe-wearing or loin-girding, which is basically just preparing for dinner as if company was coming: putting on a belt, shoes and something nicer than that t-shirt with the pit stains (“and tuck it in, for God’s sake"). As for eating with your staff in hand, that would seem to contravene eating in haste, as having two hands free would seem more efficient. But who am I to question?
One of the reasons I doubt the complete authenticity of the Passover story is that I don’t think that any Jews could prepare for a hasty departure, at least not the Jews I know. When we visit my in-laws in Florida, any trip is preceded by a fifteen-minute discussion of who is actually ready and who has been waiting for whom and whether somebody has the coupons for the free meal and whether you need a sweater in the restaurant.
You know that the Jews in Egypt went through something like this:
“Wait, I have to go to the bathroom. Did all of you kids go? I want to make good time crossing the desert – we’re not stopping to let you pee.”And so on.
“You’re not driving the cart after four cups of wine.”
“Sadie, where is my belt and my shoes?”
“Do I wear them? Find them yourself. I’m trying to make bread for the trip. This is not going to have time to rise, you know, Mr. ‘we must leave ‘ere midnight’. What kind of person goes out in the desert at this hour?”
“Where is Sharon? She is always late.”
“I can’t find my good staff.”
“Did you smear the lamb’s blood?”
“I thought you did it.”
"Uh, oh. Where is Seymore, our first born?"
In the end we had a good Seder, once we found the silver and the “good” glasses and enough nice serving platters. We spent a pleasant evening, reading and discussing the haggadah, drinking our four cups of wine and eating a wonderful dinner. We wish you all a Happy Passover and/or Happy Easter.