Here's another article I wrote for our community magazine - this one was is this month's issue.
All over the world, Spring, is the time of rebirth celebration. The two major monotheistic religions in this country, Christianity and Judaism, celebrate major observances, both moveable feasts, in this season. Frequently, these celebrations coincide, but this year they are almost a month apart. Easter Week, the Paschal remembrance, comes earliest this year from Palm Sunday, which happens to be the first day of Spring, on March 20th, to Easter on the 27th; Passover, the Paschal remembrance, begins with the Passover Seder, this year on April 22nd until the Last Day on the 30th. Both religions use the word Paschal as one of the names for the occasion.
Jesus of Nazareth, a carpenter, was a pious Jew. The story of his life, from his birth to his death, is contained in the stories of the books of the New Testament, the basis of Christian theology. They tell us that in his thirties, Jesus began a life of public teaching, spreading a message of God’s love, love for our fellow man, and of God’s forgiveness. History, they say, is written by the winners. For this story, it was written by Jesus’ followers, people who sought to spread his teachings.
Though it is questionable that this pious Jew ever claimed to be God or God’s son, he did spread a very popular message that the stern and unforgiving God of the Old Testament was also a loving, forgiving God. The religious leaders of the time sought to quell his teachings and discourage his followers. Citing his claim to be God, the leaders enlisted the aid of the Roman governor, one Pontius Pilate, who had Jesus arrested and executed. The story tells of Jesus’ arrest and execution, and of his rising from the dead and ascension on what is now called Easter Sunday. When was Jesus arrested? The night after he and his disciples had what was to be his Last Supper, the Passover Seder. The Passover Seder is a ritual commemorating the Jews’ Exodus to freedom from slavery in Egypt after they had been passed over by the Angel of Death who visited the Ten Plagues on the Egyptians.
In essence, the Christians associate the resurrection of Jesus with the rebirth of the year. They use new life, eggs, baby animals like chick, bunnies, or lambs, fresh spring flowers, and new green grass as symbols of rebirth. They are incorporated, in many forms, into the meals and treats that celebrate
Easter Sunday and the end of the solemn weeks of Lent.
The Jewish Seder is a meal of remembrance. It is a meal that, in the many foods that are served, remembers their slavery and final freedom. There is a plate of six special foods that are eaten, one of which is the bitter herbs, sometimes horseradish, romaine, or endive, that recall the bitter days of slavery. The meal includes unleavened bread, matzoh, to recall that their flight from Egypt was so abrupt that they had no time to let their bread rise. Roast meats recall the lamb sacrificed at the Temple in Jerusalem. During the long meal, the story of the Exodus is read, and many other foods eaten and rituals performed to recall and reinforce the memories and the importance of the story.
However you celebrate the coming of Spring, I wish you all a wonderful season.