Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Seder: Not Just for Jews Anymore

Did you know that the three pieces of matzo used during Seder represent the holy trinity? Or that a leg of lamb on the Seder place could replace the shank bone? Sound absurd? Perhaps, but not if you’re celebrating Passover as a Christian.

Yes, that’s right. Passover is no longer just the domain of Jews, but also of Christians who are– according to Rabbi Rami Shapiro, a comparative religions professor at Middle State Tennessee University and co-author of “Let Us Break Bread Together: A Passover Haggadah for Christians”–seeking a closer connection to Jesus as a man and as a Jew. “The practice of Seders is a growing phenomenon. Christians are really interested in the Seder meal and [churches] are trying to give their members a sense of what it was like during the life of Jesus.”

Leafing through Rabbi Shapiro’s Haggadah, there is no mistake as to the intended audience. From the title, “Let us Break Bread Together” (a reference to the New Testament) to the replacement of Adonai (Lord our G-d) with Abba (Father) to better reflect Jesus’ relationship with God, you know you won’t be seeing this version on your Seder table anytime soon.

While the idea of Christians celebrating Passover no doubt makes some within the Jewish community uncomfortable, there is also another way to look at it. During the Seder, we hear and accept questions from four children: the wise child, the wicked child, the simple child, and the child who does not know how to ask. Through their questions, each of these individuals is seeking a place for themselves within an established ritual. So too, are Christian communities who see in Judaism, and especially in Passover, an opportunity to connect with the roots of their own religious practices and faith.

By teaching them the Jewish framework for the celebration in which they want to take part, we are not only offering them an opportunity to feel closer to their religious figures, but also to better understand Jews and contemporary Judaism—something that can only be a positive step forward.

Then again, if more and more Christians do start celebrating Passover and realize just how delicious matzo and gefilte fish truly are, they might want to start celebrating other Jewish holidays as well. Like Sukkot–to see their Sunday school version of the tabernacle come to life–or Chanukah with all the presents, the candles and the latkes. But then we’d have to tell them that Santa Claus doesn’t really exist and try to convince them that a menorah really is just as much fun as a Christmas tree.

On second thought, I think we’re safe.

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