This Sunday, thanks to a quirk in the calendar, Palm Sunday comes one day before Passover begins. I don’t want to ignore either holy day, so at Living Interfaith were having a “twofer.” We usually have a service and then social hour on Sundays. This time we’ll have a Palm Sunday service followed by a Passover Seder.
Palm Sunday is both very happy and full of dark portent, for it marks the beginning of Holy Week. One week, from triumphantly entering Jerusalem to being crucified. There is much to be learned from that week. I very much look forward to the service, and the Palm Sunday message from a good friend who was a Catholic chaplain before becoming a full-time mom.
But I will confess that it is Passover that calls to me. It always has. And it is Passover that helps to teach me what it means to be “rooted” in one’s spiritual path. Ah the memories of the smell and taste of Charoses (there are at least four ways to spell that!), and the memories of Passovers past that it calls to mind. Charoses is a once a year dish made from chopped apples and almonds and cinnamon and wine (or grape juice). An enterprising Jew makes a LOT of it so that there’s at least several days worth of “leftovers.” I recall some of the wonderful traditional foods and dishes some of my Muslim friends have shared with me as we broke the Ramadan fast, and I realize that besides the teachings of our spiritual paths, it is our traditional foods that help to make us feel at home and rooted in our heritage.
There are other ritual Passover foods, of course, and indeed foods much closer to the holy day itself – particularly the matzo (unleavened bread) and horseradish (a most bitter herb).
What has always held my mind and my heart and my spirit about Passover is the thought that it has been celebrated, uninterrupted for over three thousand years. Sometimes those years were wonderful. Sometimes those years will filled with horror and death. But always, always the Passover was celebrated. Three THOUSAND years of celebrating the right to be free.
Being an Interfaither by DNA, even as a child it never occurred to me that Passover was only about Jews. It never occurred to me that Passover was solely about Jews being set free by God. Passover is about all of us. Passover is a reminder of the perils of fear (Why were the children of Israel enslaved? Because Pharaoh feared that, the children of Israel might “multiply and join our enemies and fight against us.” Sound familiar?).
It remains remarkable and inspiring to me that even at Dachau, in the midst of the Shoah, the Lord’s Passover was kept. And now, today, more than three thousand years after the first Passover, we still celebrate, eat unleavened bread and bitter herbs. All to remind us.
To remind us of our covenant with God, a covenant that for Jews was forged in the deserts of Sinai. To remind us that freedom, freedom not only to move but to think, to speak, to be different – this freedom must be treasured, protected and, most of all remembered. It must be remembered because we humans are much too forgetful. And in our forgetting, we risk becoming Pharaoh ourselves. And let us remember too that if one be slave, Jew or Gentile, man or woman, any race, any creed, any spiritual path; if this one be slave, then none of us is truly free.