A DESCRIPTION OF PASSOVER RITES, 1509.
|Cover image of Pfefferkorn's book|
This description comes from a booklet entitled How the Blind Jews celebrate their Easter (Wie die blinden Juden yr Ostern halten). The author, Johann Pfefferkorn, was a German Jew who converted to Christianity. The book clearly shows his anti-Semitic bias, but provided German readers with an early (the first?) account of Jewish religious practices.
- The flour to be used in the holy meal must be ground with a clean and newly-hewn grindstone and kept in freshly-washed bags. … The houses of the Jews are very smelly and unclean, but at the time of this feast they are quite determined to cleanse all rooms in their houses and to sweep them clean, also to scour clean their utensils, especially pots and bowls, and anything else used in the preparation of food, although they do not use them at this time. Rather, they have dishes specially kept from year to year for this feast. They also polish to a sheen all the silver and pewter dishes…Then they bring them to the rabbi for inspection, whether they are clean and right for use in this feast.
- On the second day before Easter, after sundown, the head of the household himself goes with a lit candle from room to room and zealously searches the whole house, and if he finds anything unclean, he collects it and burns it to ashes.
- On the day before Easter, after sundown, they make dough [of clean flour and water fetched from a stream], but without salt or yeast… The head of the household himself takes the dough and with his own hands fashions three cakes.
- When the cake has been eaten in the proper manner, each person takes up his prayer book. Then, on the command of the father of the family, the door is opened and someone riding a donkey, which has been ordered for this purpose, comes into the room. All who sit there loudly recite the words of the [79th] psalm, like this: “O Lord pour out your wrath over the nations that do not acknowledge you” – meaning us Christians.
- Around midnight they go to bed and that night act very unchastely, for each of them hopes that the Messiah will be born of him.
(For Pfefferkorn's anti-Semitic campaign and the resulting controversy with Reuchlin, see my book: The Case against Johann Reuchlin. Religious and Social Controversy in Sixteenth-Century Germany)