16—How many years I have studied the Bible as a scholar, resulting in to Masters degrees and one PhD.
12—How many years I have spent teaching University students about the Hebrew Bible.
0—Number of times I have tried to celebrate a year’s worth of Jewish holidays.
This year, I was very accurately targeted with an ad campaign on social media that enticed me to subscribe to Days United, Jewish holidays in a box. This seemed very campy to me, but it was also just the right thing to inspire me to host a Passover Dinner with my family and write a blog about it!
This year (2021), the Passover celebration coincides with the Christian Passion week. So, I am trying to reflect a little in both traditions together, since both Christianity and Judaism emerged from responses to the Hebrew Bible. As a biblical scholar, the focus of my reflection will center around how these traditions remember and interpret the biblical text.
A little bit of pragmatism
First things first. Before the reflecting, comes the journey. I received my Days Passover Box in the mail about a month ago. It was a non-intimidating size, and it was filled with all the essentials. There was a small keychain with a charm to represent the Passover. I am almost certain it is matzo.
Due to some unavoidable scheduling conflicts, we had to adjust the date of our Seder to accommodate our family schedule. As it is, our Passover Seder is scheduled to coincide with Good Friday. Given the echoes of Passover that permeate the Christ narrative in the Gospels, I think this is an interesting and suitable way for me to reflect on how both religious traditions elude to the ancient Exodus narrative.
Planning the Seder Meal
The most intimidating thing for me is definitely preparing the food. Fortunately, my partner, Joshua, is an excellent cook, and he has graciously agreed to attempt some new recipes to provide for a 3-course Seder dinner. Since our family is dairy-free, I was very pleased to find that there are some delicious allergy-accomodating recipes available at chabad.org. We settled on Basic Brisket, Crispy Potato Roast, and Chicken Balls Soup. Today, we went shopping for ingredients.
We started at Costco because we do a lot of basic shopping there. We found a great deal on Yukon Gold Potatoes, carrots, and we even found a nice small portion of lamb shanks. This is not a technically kosher meat (due to the blood vessel), but I need one of the bones for the Seder plate, so we will probably prepare this for dinner the night before. Then, we went to look for brisket. The only thing available was a very, VERY, large chunk of beef brisket. We passed that over and went to Market of Choice next. I picked out a selection of dried fruits and nuts to use in making the charoset, and Joshua got the turnips, parsnips, and other root vegetables. As for meat, all they had was corned beef. So, we ended up at Safeway, where we picked up a 4 lb brisket, and then realized we could have bought it altogether for a better price at Costco and butchered the smaller pieces ourselves. Well, live and learn. The last thing we bought was a small gift for each of our kids to ‘trade’ for the Afikoman. We settled on Nintendo eshop gift cards. Teenagers, amiright?
One of the things that has always fascinated me about the Christ story is that the “Last Supper” was actually most likely a Passover Seder. With all the shared history and symbolism built up between Christianity and Judaism, it is amazing to me that there is also so much division. I realize that even within a single religion, people are inclined to divide themselves. However, it seems like a missed opportunity for Christians to share in a common tradition and for the Jewish to find some comradery in today’s world.
While, my intention will be to follow traditional Jewish protocol for celebrating this year’s Passover Seder, I have also been thinking about the significance of Passion Week leading up to Easter. There are really two interconnected stories being told this week. One is the story of how God’s people were called to walk out from under an oppressive system, and that miracle was marked by the sacrifice of a young lamb, and the second is the story about how every person is invited to walk out from under oppression by way of God’s son, Yeshua, who becomes the sacrificial lamb.
More on the preparation and implementation later this week!