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Descriptive Geography and Brief Historical Sketch of Palestine

By Rabbi Joseph Schwarz, 1850

The Passover Sacrifice קרבן פסח Among the Samaritans, the Ancient Cutheans of 2 Kings 17.

This is not the place to speak circumstantially of the whole nature of this sect; and I only mention a striking and remarkable ceremony which they practise, namely, the passover sacrifice. In the month of Nissan, but not on a certain and fixed day, they all assemble, little and great, on their holy Mount Gerizzim, not far from Nablus (Shechem). At present these people are only found in that city; but some hundreds of years ago they had also a large congregation at Cairo, as I derive from a work of the celebrated Ben Zimra (Radbaz רדב״ז). They bring out a sheep, which is slain by their ecclesiastical chief, whom they call "the high priest" כהן גדול. They then dig a pit, in which they make a fire, and it is then covered over with sticks of wood; and on these the entire sheep is laid without being opened, with skin and hair, and thus roasted, or rather nearly burnt; and when it is sufficiently done, they all seize it like hungry wolves, and consume it, each one endeavouring to get something from this holy meal. They often get to fights and blows in so doing, and this ceremony will give us some idea of their entire practical religious life, since they allege that thus they fulfil the behest of the law in Exodus 12:9. And can they really call this a family feast, nauseous as it is, and a token of which is carried off in welts on their backs, faces scratched, and bleeding noses? And nevertheless the Cutheans call themselves the true and actual Israelites, who alone live strictly according to the laws of the Holy Scriptures, and assert that they alone have the proper and correct interpretation of the law, whereas they call us ignorant in all this.

I have to remark something which strikes me as peculiar among them. They call God Ashima, and they use this term whenever the name of God is to be pronounced in the Bible or their speech. But this word Ashima occurs in 2 Kings 17:30, as the idol of the men of Chamath (not of the Cutheans, who worshipped Nergal), which first was, according to Talmud Sanhedrin, 63b, in the shape of a goat. The modern Cutheans are, however, of a mixed class, as they employ an image resembling a bird, much like a dove (see Chulin, 6a), which is carved of wood, and put on the top of their rolls of the law which are written in the Syriac (Samaritan character), and out of which they read a short passage every Sabbath somewhat after the fashion of our modern reformers. The just-cited passage of the Talmud avers that Nergal, the idol of the Cutheans, was a cock, a bird, therefore, having nothing in common with the goat; and as nevertheless the Samaritans use the word Ashima, which denoted the goat, the idol of the Camatheans, it proves that they are of a mixed descent, and not pure Cutheans merely.

Jews and Muslims in Palestine