A Seder for Easter
A Seder for Easter may appear, at first glance, to be an oddity. Let Passover be Passover and Easter be Easter some might say. In fact Easter is Passover transformed into the sacrament of the Lords Supper, a holy communion that is the central rite of Christianity. For interfaith couples religions must not divide the house. This Seder is an invitation to help build a bridge.
Jews and Christians follow separate calendars that sanctify time differently and create distinct realities that often do not intersect. Some years Easter has more in common with Esther, when Easter takes place at the same time of year as Purim.
What does the Book of Esther have to do with the story of Easter? On Purim we are commanded to remember that the spirit of Amalek (Deuteronomy 24:17-18) exists in every tyrant, including Haman and Pontius Pilate, and that we all await liberation from the Pharaohs of history. The early church fathers mention that Christians once celebrated Passover in the synagogue. This was then forbidden to distinguish the new sect from its origins. Purim was forgotten and Passover transformed.
A Place Where “Judaizing” is not a Pejorative.
In our Congregation, Temple Shabbat Shalom, we welcome all Jews who are married to Catholics and Protestants. Our Temple is a place for Jews to learn about Christianity and Christians to learn about Judaism. Our name, Shabbat Shalom, means “Sabbaths Peace.”
One may fairly ask how much Peace one finds in homes where one partner defines the Sabbath as Friday evening and Saturday, and the other as Sunday. Of course the blessing of the Sabbath has always come as a double portion, like the manna in the wilderness. In fact, modern weekends are two days, something not even the Ten Commandments imagined when it teaches “Six days shall thou work.”
A Jew married to a Christian honors their spouse by attending Easter services and sharing the holyday meal with the family. This Seder is meant as a private celebration in the home of the couple. Remember, the communion of the church service will be redefined in your domestic sanctuary. We see in the various Seders around the year that wine and bread are essential elements in the sacred meal in your home. As the leaders in your home sanctuary you will direct the discussion on the meaning of the Easter season for a Jew and Christian. This requires a great deal of preparation, including a review of all the A.L.P.E.R.N. Seders with a focus on Passover.
I have had the privilege to lead a Catholic Seder in Lake George, New York the
past few years. The Haggadah for the Seder, The Passover Celebration is printed by The Liturgy Training Publications of the Archdiocese of Chicago (1980), and is
so generic it could be used in any traditional Jewish home for Passover. This
Easter Seder will go beyond The Passover Celebration since it is designed
specifically for interfaith couples for Easter.
Kindly consider this the roughest draft among our various Seders since it awaits the comments and additions of you and the Priests and Pastors of your families.
Consider the following one Rabbi’s version, which is completed only by your
editing. You may want to begin with the Shabbat Hagadol Seder and review the
Passover Seders for the first and final days.
Be sure to discuss menus and recipes for this Seder.
Consider beginning your Seder with readings from the Song of Songs. About two
thousand years ago Rabbi Akiba proclaimed the Song the holiest of all sacred
writing. He and the Rabbis read the history of Israel in the verses of the Song. The
Church Fathers read the Song as the relationship between Jesus and the church.
Remember in its essence this is a love poem between bride and groom. May your
Seder represent the love of God in all its dimensions.
Since Elijah’s voice is always welcome we will begin again with Elijah.
You may wish to start your Seder with this reading:
Rabbi Joshua the son of Levi met Elijah the Prophet who was standing at the
entrance to the cave of Rabbi Shimon Ben Yochai, the entrance to the Garden of
“When will the Messiah come?
“Ask him yourself.”
“He sits at the gates of Rome.”
Rabbi Joshua went and asked.
Said the Rabbi to the Prophet, “He lied.”
Elijah explained: This is what he meant” Today if you would but listen to his voice.” (Psalms 95:7) (Based on Talmud, Sanhedrin 98a)
Study the Psalm and Talmudic reference and discuss.
The Seder (Order) of the Meal
Parental Blessings: Bridging the generation gap
The eve of Sabbaths and holydays we begin our home sanctuary services by inviting Elijah to help us bridge the generation gap by the blessing of their children by parents. Hands on their heads, we ordain our children to be teachers of the way of dialogue and communication. See Seder Shabbat Shalom for the blessings. Consider writing a blessing children say to bless and thank parents in your family. The blessing begins with Elijah’s
teaching us to turn the hearts of parents towards their children and how children reconcile with parents. (Malachi 3:23).
(On the Sabbath we continue with Shalom Alachem and Proverbs 31.
Consider your own blessings for fathers to supplement praise of moms.)
Kiddush (Shabbat and holidays, including Easter)
Baruch ata adonigh elohanu melech haolam boray pri hagafen.
Praised are you Ado nigh, ruler of the world, creator of the fruit of the vine.
(You may want to discuss Kiddush and how it is understood in the Catholic and Protestant traditions)
Washing of Hands
“Lift up your hands toward the Sanctuary and bless The Lord.” (Psalms 134:2)
Baruch ata ado nigh elohanu melech haolam asher kiddhsanu b mitzvotav vitzivanu al netalat yadim.
Praised are you Ado nigh, ruler of the world, who sanctifies us through the commandments and commands us to wash our hands.
(The washing of hands has been an issue between Church and Synagogue. Discuss.)
The Motzi (Bread or Matzah)
Baruch ata adonigh elohanu melech haolam ha motzi lechem min ha aretz.
Praised are you Ado nigh who brings forth bread from the earth.
“You are Lord forever, merciful in all acts, helping those in trouble, lifting the fallen, all the living look hopefully to You, so that you should give them their food in the correct time.” (Psalms 145: 13-15)
(The Bread in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem was Lechem Hapanem, the Bread of Gods Presence, or more literally The Bread of Gods Face.)
Rabbi Shimon Ben Yochai teaches that three who eat at one table and discuss the truths of Torah dine with the divine, as The prophet teaches, (Ezekiel 41:22) “This is the table which is in the presence of the Lord.”
(Note that Ezekiel’s vision of the future Temple includes the Table that holds the Bread of Gods Presence and the mystic Rabbi Shimon is teaching that this also refers to your dining room Table.)
Rabbi Chalafta adds: How do we know this also applies to two? “Then those who revered the Lord spoke to one another, and the Lord listened and heard.”(Malachi 3:16.) Study the Chapter. Discuss.
(Malachi is teaching that those who practice true religion discuss the truth at their tables.)
How do we know the above applies even to one person? This was taught to Moses in The Book of Exodus, after The Ten Fundamental teachings:
“In every place my name is mentioned I will come to you and bless you. (20:24)
(Our rabbis teach that it is a great virtue to invite guests to your table. “With a multitude of people is God’s glory” (Proverbs 14:28). Still, if you are alone, and mention your creator, the meal is set as a Table for two.
A Family Discussion of Easter
The drama of Easter is retold in the prayers of the church based on a number of versions in the Gospels and Epistles. Open your family Bible and Discuss.
Compare to Genesis 22. Ask any children present to tell and explain the story. Then ask all present their questions. Discuss.
Grace after meals
We have eaten and are satisfied and bless The Lord our God. (Deuteronomy 8:10)
The Key to the Seders
The key to all the Seders is based on a daily and weekly structuring and ordering of our lives around sanctified meals. The recipe for Peace in the home begins in the kitchen, as we prepare our daily weekly and holyday meals. The ingredients are essential, so we will share resources including specific food recipes. Send them to RabbiAlpern@Aol.com.
A Seder exchange is also essential.
We see from the myriad variations on the Passover Seder that our daily Shabbat and holyday home services will change every year as we learn from one another. This is most true of our experimental Easter Seder.
Kindly send me your families’ version of this Seder and I will post it under your name as a resource to help others.
Chazak Chazak Va neatcahazkae. Be strong, be strong; and let us strengthen one another.