At this time of the year, having regard to our important Jewish festivity of Passover, we wish all of our friends a hearty Chag Sameach. We address this not only to our Jewish friends but in a spirit of amity and collaboration, to our Christian friends, with whom as you know, we share a common text, the Jewish Bible, the Christian Old Testament.
Of course, Pesach (Passover) which commences with our First night Seder dinner, uses another text that we Jews have followed for a very long time, the Haggadah, a text which is of course an embellishment of the Exodus but which has many other components to give much food for thought to all generations, from the youngest at the Seder table who asks Four important questions, to the patriarch of the family who leads and who exhorts all those present to lean to the left (not necessarily politically) and to consume the requisite number of cups of wine.
Symbolism is huge on the nights of Pesach ( we have two!) and with the bone, bitter herbs, the mortar of the Pyramids, egg and life, the lamb bone representing the Paschal Lamb and matza, our unleavened bread, the bread of affliction, we can discuss the story of Passover and its meaning till the early hours of the next day, a bit like Rabbis Tarfon and Eliezer ben Azariya did.
We look at the world and the world to come and ‘all the days and nights’ as opposed to ‘the days and nights’.
For all of you who participate in Passover and those who will continue to have healthy matza sandwiches for the next week or so, as I have said, a hearty Chag Sameach.
Soon, our Christian friends will, following on the coming Holy Week, celebrate Easter, which as is known, is linked to Passover and the Last Supper being no doubt, the Seder dinner. We wish our Christian friends a most contemplative and spiritual Holy Week and Easter and for them the opportunity to reinforce their faith, a faith which derives from and is textually and in many other ways linked to Judaism and Jesus the Jew.
For Christians in Europe and particularly in the UK and the US, the idea of another bread, ie Hot Cross Buns, is linked to Easter.
For Jews at Passover, our bread is unleavened, the matza we carried on our backs out of Egypt.
For all, these are important times and times of reflection. For Jews, the idea of celebrating Passover with a ‘stranger’, whether Christian, Muslim or Jew, is something of which we are reminded, for ‘once we were strangers in the Land of Egypt’. Being the stranger, the minority must never be overlooked and other strangers and that feeling of being ‘the other’, the minority, recognised and those people acknowledged.
I and my family as with other Jewish families, will have ‘the stranger’ at our Passover Seders. It gives us an opportunity to show what our customs are, and to broach the gap of ignorance between faiths.
I don’t know if the Bishop of Rome will be participating in a Seder dinner with the Chief Rabbi of Rome this week but the thought is one that warms me as something that is possible. It is the possible that perhaps drives us all in interfaith and in CCJ world wide, towards greater understanding of each other and of ‘the other’.