The Spring Standoff
Like the December Dilemma, around the Hanukkah and Christmas holidays, the Spring Standoff confronts families with similar challenges. Can you celebrate two culturally meaningful and religiously important holidays without offending one partner or the other? Must the choice be “either/or,” or might there be a way to honor both celebrations without violating ethnic or religious identity? We think a “both/and” solution is preferable.
“Either/or” thinking is a sadly limited perspective. For example, it sees only the Jewish religious aspects in Passover and misses the universal message of a redeemer God at the heart of Passover observance. Non-Jews who had sanctified themselves to the LORD were welcome to celebrate Passover, to eat unleavened bread and to give thanks to the LORD for His goodness. Gentiles, along with Jews, were welcome to the Lord’s table to eat the matzo and rejoice in the mercy of God. Followers of Y’shua (Jesus) see the message of the deliverer God prominently emphasized within the Passover story.
“Either/or” thinking also misses the universal beauty in the message of Easter. Originally, the celebration of the resurrection of Messiah always fell within Passover week, on the first Sunday according to Biblical record. Later, cultural influences prompted Christian leaders to disconnect the Resurrection Celebration from Passover week. However, at it’s root, the resurrection of the Messiah occurred exactly on the Jewish festival of First Fruits (see Leviticus 23:10-11). Therefore, on Easter Sunday, followers of Jesus observe His resurrection from the grave as “the first fruits of those who are asleep” (1 Corinthians 15:20). That powerful, life changing message connects Passover redemption and First fruits rejoicing.
A “both/and” perspective allows for appreciation of the spiritual meaning in each of the holidays. Passover reminds us, and teaches our children, that God is merciful. He cares about the downtrodden state of people. He redeems those who cry out to Him for redemption and relief. This is the best possible news for anyone who feels estranged from God. A universal separation from God feels like bondage, and that was not unique to the Jewish experience in Egypt.
The universal message in Resurrection Sunday (Easter) is that God’s forgiveness is available to deliver all needy people from bondage to sin. Like on the night of Passover, whosoever would enter in experienced God’s deliverance. Jews and the mixed multitude with them, left Egyptian slavery in the hope of new life in a promised land. Resurrection life is available to all who trust in God and receive new life through His Messianic Son. That is for Jewish people and for Gentiles too.
There need not be a standoff during the Spring holidays. Jews and Gentiles may both benefit from the religious messages of the seasonal holidays. Cultural practices introduce the common symbols and forms in which holidays are observed. It is even more important to understand the biblical origins and meanings of the holidays. They are not limited, in any sense, to only one ethnic community. In fact, the Bible links the Passover account and the Feast of First Fruits together. Thus, the story of Y’shua’s (Jesus’) Last Supper is properly the description of His last Passover Seder.
The Spring Standoff can be resolved by taking time to appreciate the biblical meaning of Passover and Easter (the Resurrection Celebration). In-laws can be free to invite their intermarried adult children and grandchildren to celebrate the holidays with them. It only requires a bit of sensitivity to those who are unfamiliar with the holiday practices and biblicalmeaning. Showing respect for the traditions of both Spring holidays can make it much easier for everyone in the family to discover a fuller picture as God intended. Take time to share the rich blessings with one another. Approach the holidays like opportunities when everyone can learn together.
These are times when it is possible to build spiritual harmony as Jews and Gentiles. How pleasant it is when we can say together, “Give thanks to the LORD for He is good and His mercy endures forever [from Psalm 118:1-29 in the Passover celebration].
By Tuvya Zaretsky ©2009