Friday, April 3, 2015

Best Wishes for a Meaningful Easter and Passover

Today is full moon, the 15th day of the month of Nisan. Werewolves are about; lovers swoon; rusalkas sing plaintively.  It's the date set by the sages for Passover. It's also the Friday preceding the first Sunday following the first full moon after the vernal equinox, which is the date set by the Christian Church at the Council of Nicaea for Easter. 

Although the stories of Passover and Easter overlap--the Last Supper being a Passover Seder--the celebrations are tied to different calendars and so they dance around each other, roughly from late March to late April on our Gregorian calendar.  The full moon keeps them in close orbit. 

These are spring-holidays, a time of renewal and re-birth. Eggs show up as lusty fertility symbols on the Seder plate and nestled in with chocolate bunnies in garden baskets.  

Passover tells how "My father was a fugitive Aramean" who travelled to Egypt, where he and his people became enslaved, and how God redeemed this tribe and brought them out of Egypt, out of slavery.  The people followed Moses, destined to lead an exemplary communal life in a land of milk and honey. The people failed. They were expelled from the land like Adam and Eve from paradise.  The Passover holiday ends with a reading of Isaiah 10:32-12:6, a messianic vision of a future earthly kingdom where the lamb and the leopard will lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and where a little child will lead them into a new Paradise. It is an earthbound tradition, full of problematic violence and human failings.

Easter starts with Passover and transforms Jesus into the ultimate sacrificial lamb: the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.  Christ was crucified, buried, and resurrected. It is a tradition that is other-worldly, full of problematic violence and human failings.   

Neither tradition has managed to make the world right. We keep trying. 

This week we'll celebrate because, despite all, these traditions continue to speak to our human condition. They provide a reference point. A literary font. Inspiration. They allow us to stay connected with the struggles, hopes, and visions of our forefathers. They provide a jumping off point for our own struggles. They mark the seasons and bind us with family and love. 

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