Seder Provides A New Understanding

MUSING

Discovering A Connection With Christian Faith, Lessons For Life

April 22, 1992|By Amy L. Miller

Since I started writing about religion, I've wanted to attend a Passover Seder, one of the most joyous celebrations in the Jewish faith.

I wanted to experience the service for myself and bring a better understanding to my writing.

I knew my Bible stories.

I knew that Moses had been spared when Pharaoh had ordered all male Hebrew children be killed and had beenraised by the ruler's daughter.

I knew that Moses had grown to realize his true heritage, to demand the release of his people and to lead them out of Egypt.

And I knew that the angel had "passed over"the Hebrews' homes, saving their first-born sons from the final plague that struck the Egyptians and persuaded Pharaoh to release his slaves.

Attending the Seder transformed that knowledge to understanding and gave it a meaning applicable to daily life.

Each participant, while partaking of the ritual, is celebrating not just his ancestors' freedom from slavery, but also his own.

And I realized slaveryis not just one human having power over another.

We also can be in bondage to harmful habits or beliefs.

"Freedom is the most important thing we have," said Cantor Al Stein, religious leader at Beth Shalom in Taylorsville during Saturday's service.

"In remembering from whence we came, we become better people and respect not only ourselves but our fellow man."

I also grew to appreciate how closely the Jewish and Christian traditions are knit and remembered that it was from a Jewish milieu that my faith came.

The passages from the Haggada, which tells the story of the Exodus, recalled my own favoriteverses about God being a reliable source of strength during times oftrouble.

It is the same God.

The service, which history says Jesus performed the night before he was crucified, has been the same from generation to generation.

Symbolic foods are eaten, such as a bitter mixture of horseradish called Maror, which represents the hardtimes the Israelites had in Egypt.

Charoses -- a sweet, brown mixture of apples, nuts, cinnamon and wine -- recalls the mortar the slaves used in building palaces for Pharaoh.

The unleavened matzo, meanwhile, reminds modern followers that the Jews had to flee Egypt before they had time to prepare food for the journey.

Four small cupsof wine consumed during the meal symbolize the privileges free people have.

A full cup of wine is set aside in hopes that the prophet Elijah will join the ceremony and bring the Messiah with him.

Steven Weiner, a member at Beth Shalom, said several Christian congregations have asked about the Seder and have begun celebrating Passover intheir own churches.

"They're starting to celebrate Passover as a Christian holiday," he said. "Maybe someday they'll be a Protestant Haggada, or a Seventh-Day Adventist Haggada or whatever."

I think I'd like to see that.

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