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The God Squad: A Prayer for 5772/2012

April 06, 2012|By Rabbi Marc Gellman

For Christians and Jews, all of our religious holidays divide us except for Passover and Easter. Passover and Easter divide us by bringing us closer together. Let me try to explain this exquisite spiritual contradiction.

Passover and Easter are different in that Passover, as theologian Martin Buber has written, is celebrated by a meal eaten for God, while Easter is celebrated by a meal eaten of God.

Passover celebrates a God who could not become visible, while Easter celebrates a God who had to become visible to save a sinful humanity. Passover is about liberation for a nation of slaves. Easter is about liberation of individual believers from the enslavement of sin.

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There are worlds of difference between these two faiths, and as much as we wish to come together, our sacred histories do keep us apart. However, we're only kept apart the way singers in different parts of the same choir are kept apart by the timber of their voices.

We're kept apart the way climbers are kept apart by their choices to climb the same mountain by different paths. Passover and Easter teach us that the ways we're different, though real and defining, are not nearly as important as the ways we're all the same. Let me pray this truth now.

Passover and Easter are both songs of springtime.

Both are celebrations of a season of new growth and new births for the flocks that still feed us, even if we only encounter them in plastic trays in the supermarket.

The parsley on the seder plate and the Easter eggs in the neon green plastic basket are both just symbols of springtime. We are sophisticated human beings now, but our spring song holidays remind us that we're still animals waiting for seasonal rebirth.

Passover and Easter also unite us through our sacred history and sacred scripture. According to the synoptic gospels, the Last Supper of Jesus was a Passover seder meal (Matthew 26:17; Mark 14:12; and Luke 22:7). The Gospel of John has it as occurring the day before Passover (John 13:1) — a distinction without a difference, but that's just the opinion of your loyal rabbi columnist.

The point is that this holiday celebrating the Exodus from Egypt for Jews was transformed into a new kind of Exodus from a new type of bondage — the bondage of original sin. To ensure that the messages of Passover and Easter remain forever linked, Easter is the only Christian holiday whose arrival is calculated on the ancient Jewish lunar calendar.

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