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The God Squad: Passover, Easter both grounded in love

April 22, 2011|By Rabbi Marc Gellman

I love the fact that that Passover and Easter, both being lunar holidays, usually overlap. This seems to me to be a sign from God that we're more the same than we are different. To be sure, the official theologies of Passover and Easter are fundamentally different.

The Passover meal is eaten for God, and the Easter meal (the Eucharist) is eaten of God. In Easter, a man becomes God, and in Passover, a man leads an entire people to God at Mount Sinai. In Easter, atonement is made through the sacrificial death and resurrection of Jesus, while in Passover, the ancient biblical sacrifices offered at the Temple in Jerusalem remind us of how we still must sacrifice for our faith and seek atonement from God for our sins.

However, beyond the differences between ham and gefilte fish, chocolate bunnies and horseradish, Exodus from Egypt and Exodus from original sin, there are powerful commonalities between these two supremely important holidays that we'd all do well to remember.

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Passover and Easter both remind us that nature is not enough to reveal God. Springtime is a time so marked by the glories of nature that it's easy to think of nature as a direct pathway to God. This is not so. Nature is amoral. In nature, the strong eat the weak and storms tear up coastlines and cities without remorse.

Both Passover and Easter overlay sacred history upon the eternal cycle of nature. The Exodus and the Passion are both sacred moments in history, unique and unrepeatable. They teach us that beyond nature, God's love and grace are available to us, especially when we are weak and about to be consumed by earthly power. They teach us to look beyond nature to the God who made nature and made us.

This makes the change of seasons an opportunity for a change of heart. The immutable power of nature is made mutable by God's love. This is the essential spiritual revolution that Judaism and Christianity brought to the world. We're not just animals driven by the urges and rhythms of nature. We are sacred beings with animal natures made in the image of a loving God. Nature yields to love.

Passover and Easter also remind us that hope exists even in our most broken and fearful times. The people trapped temporarily at the shore of the Red Sea lost hope. The followers and family of Jesus, seeing the death of their messianic savior, lost hope at the crucifixion. But hope endures and the sea splits and the cross and the cave are emptied of death.

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