THIS WEEK, key underpinnings of the Western unconscious will reveal themselves in the observance of Passover and Good Friday — two rituals of sacrifice that have penetrated the American mind. Far from being an ancient irrelevance, the blood sacrifice that these occasions commemorate helps to define even secular culture — with profound consequences for how we, and our government, see the world.
The sacrificial lamb is the central figure of Passover, for its blood, in marking the lintels of the Hebrews in Egypt, prompted the angel of death to pass them by. The God-willed deaths of Egypt’s firstborns recalls the piety of Abraham, who, at God’s behest, was prepared to kill his beloved son. But Isaac, too, was spared by a lamb —“a ram caught in a thicket’’ — that took his place.