Ari Bussel, a good Internet Jewish friend, sent a combination Passover/Easter message to me on Easter Sunday. Due to other research opportunities and the holiday itself I did not get to his email until yesterday (4/18/17).
A couple of things to think about while reading this.
One, marketing has become way too intrinsic with Christian Holy Days in the Western World. These days a Holy Day has been downgraded to a mere secular holiday.
Two, there is a truism in this essay. Judaism will exist without Christianity, BUT Christianity would never exist without Judaism. Now that is something to think about for those people who consider themselves in the Christian traditions yet are antisemitic Jew-haters. (Muslims can’t help it. Jew-hatred is encoded in their revered writings whether it is the Quran, Hadith or Sunnah.)
Passover – Easter, 2017
By Ari Bussel
Sent 4/16/2017 5:47 PM
upper right hand side: 1937 Passover Haggadah printed in New York (p. 182: Psalms 118) — lower right hand side: 2001 Passover Haggadah printed in Israel (p. 76 highlighting Jerusalem, the Holy City)
A mother walking with two daughters stops me this morning: “Do you know what time the stores open today? Will they be open at all?”
It is Easter Sunday, and we are the only ones on Rodeo Drive, likely the most known street in Beverly Hills and one of the most iconic shopping destinations in the world.
Clearly, what is Ari to do? Without preparation or hesitation, I send them to Church.
“It is too early on a Sunday morning,” I say, “but you may want to go up the block. At the corner is the Beverly Hills Presbyterian Church, and one block over is the Catholic Church. Everyone is celebrating Easter, and it is very nice just to walk over there.”
The two churches sit atop what we call the Santa Monica Gardens, a wide strip of grass and magnificent trees separating the Business Triangle and the better residential part of the city. Around the Catholic Church, like any morning, one can see the local homeless people, including one lady in particular with numerous bags and packages. She had settled at the front steps of what looks like a private residence, and she is talking with herself, waking up the entire neighborhood.
Toward the Presbyterian Church, parents with young children are converging on the playground outside. Everyone is dressed up nicely, in pinks and yellows and other Spring colors. It is quite different than when we, the Jewish People, go to shul (synagogue). We are dressed usually in blacks and whites or other very elegant but subdued colors, most appropriate for welcoming the holiness of Shabbat or Chag (the Sabbath or a holiday).
Easter. Even the Farmers’ Market in Beverly Hills, a City predominantly Jewish, is closed. In neighboring cities, the spirit of the holiday is absent; and this is most regretful. Can we not survive one day without shopping?
Maybe it is simply too early on Sunday, because I expect more people to be at church, much like our own convergence on synagogues for our major holiday, Passover.
The two – Passover and Easter – are intertwined. In fact, much like everything else, Christianity cannot be separated from Judaism. Exactly a week ago we celebrated the Seder, the special meal at the first night of Passover; otherwise known in Christianity as The Last Supper: Yeshu of Nazareth (Jesus), a Jewish Rabbi, led the Seder celebration.
Whether or not one believes in Jesus as the Son of God, the evidence is clear that He indeed came back to life and remains living to this very day, some two millennia later. Christianity, along its various streams, is the manifestation of the lasting impact made on humanity, and it is living, changing, advancing, never relenting.
I cannot stop but note that Easter Sunday this year is the same day that we will be celebrating the eve of the last night of Passover. Leviticus 23:4-8 declares the “appointed seasons of God,” starting in the first (Hebrew) month (of Nissan; Spring, right now), “on the fourteenth day of the month at dusk, is the Lord’s Passover. And on the fifteenth day of this month is the Feast of the Unleavened Bread unto the Lord, seven days ye shall eat unleavened bread. In the first day ye shall have a holy convocation, ye shall do no manner of work. And ye shall bring an offering made by fire unto the Lord seven days, in the seventh day is a holy convocation, ye shall do not manner of work.”
Much like this past Chanukah and Christmas that coincided in December 2016, so now, Easter and the seventh day of Passover fall on the same day. I think of the woman and her two daughters whom I sent to church early morning on this Easter Sunday. Just the Chutzpah, what an idea! Church instead of early shopping?
And I continue thinking of the influence of a single person, believed by so many millions to be the Son of God, thus God Himself, and His influence on our civilization, on our very being. We hear constantly that “Jews control the world,” but we leave an imprint, never shy from expressing an opinion, trying to better the world, being a light unto the nations. Here is the epitome of this understanding. The heights to which a Jewish person can ascend, the influence He can attain – the promise that is embedded in each and every one of us, created in the image of God Himself, and the depth of the suffering and sorrow which one can experience.
Remember, “for whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.” (First Corinthians 11:26)
Via Dolorosa, the Way of Sorrows to the place of the Crucifixion, whereupon its entire length and its various stops, Jesus was mocked, spat upon, beaten and scourged, and yet He “carried our illnesses and our pains He suffered … and in His company we were healed” (Isaiah 53:4-5). The death of Christ on the Cross and his bodily resurrection are pivotal events in Christianity, as Passover and the great miracles of God are in the Jewish Bible.
The deliverance from slavery to freedom, the Ten Plagues, Passing Over the abodes of the Hebrews and sparing them the Plague of the First Born, the Parting of the Red Sea, the Giving of the Torah and the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai, feeding the Hebrews Manna from Heaven, providing them water and guiding them during the 40 years of wandering in the desert, and finally bringing them to the Promised Land, a Land of Milk and Honey, and residing there, in the place of His choosing, among His people, [a very long sentence, to be read in one breath, as the Glory of the Almighty like a storm engulfs, overwhelms and uplifts us] is the paramount action of God the Almighty that we remember and celebrate to this very day.
Each Shabbat, the Jewish people read a consecutive portion of the Torah, the first five books of the Bible. Corresponding to each of these Portions is a specific section from the Prophets.
For the Shabbat that falls during Pessach (Passover) we read Ezekiel 37, the Vision of the Valley of Dry Bones. In Biblical days, it was the deliverance from slavery to freedom, and in modern times, in this era, it is redemption – Geulah. We are not quite there yet, for even among us, we are still divided. Ashkenazi Jews add more verses than Sephardic Jews, and it is very prophecy that tells us how a house united, one in God’s hands, becomes one people, God’s people, and He their God.
And Ezekiel then ends this prophecy: “And the nations shall know that I am God who sanctifies Israel when My sanctuary is in their midst forever.” (37:28)
Despite all the minor though visible divisions, both internal and external, within Judaism and within Christianity and between the two religions, we are all God’s people, and it is good that there is a major holiday, Passover for the Jews and Easter for the Christians, to remind us of what is truly important, more than just shopping on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills on Easter.
As the Prophet Micah tells us (6:8):
“What does the Lord requires of thee? Only to do justly, and to love mercy and to walk humbly with thy God.”
This is the latest in the series “Postcards from America – Postcards from Israel,” a collaboration between Zager and Bussel, a foreign correspondent reporting from Israel.
Ari Bussel and Norma Zager collaborate both in writing and on the air in a point-counter-point discussion of all things Israel-related. Together, they have dedicated the past decade to promoting Israel.
© Israel Monitor, April 2017
First Published April 16, 2017