March 25, 2010

No, Passover Is Not Jewish Easter


What I thought might have been an isolated experience last year turned out to be déjà vu this year. As I was perusing my local store’s selection of Kosher For Passover (KFP) goods, a lady started following me around the display. We’re not talking an aisle here. It’s a stand alone display about 3 feet wide and 6 feet long. Really not that big. But it’s 2 levels and they have all kinds of things jammed in there, some of which is not KFP so it requires focus.

After I had picked up 3 or 4 items, read them over and put them back I heard a soft voice say ‘excuse me.” Thinking I was in someone’s way I moved over but kept doing what I was doing. Then I hear ‘excuse me,’ again. This time I look up to find this woman very close to me. I think I freaked her out for a moment with my reaction.

Anyway, I ask her if I can help her and she begins to pepper me with well more than the allowed four questions commonly associated with Passover. What is this, as she points to gefilte fish in the jar. So I explain. Briefly. Then again, what do you do with this? Pointing to the gross jellied candies.  Some people eat them for dessert.  Why do you eat matzah? It symbolizes that the Jews left Egypt very quickly and didn’t have time for the bread to rise.  And then came the references to Easter, the three matzah, or as she referred to it as ‘the trinity of matzah’; the eggs, and ‘that spirit guy’ by which she meant Elijah.

Then came the not-question, question – “Isn’t Passover really just the Jewish Easter?” Excuse me? Beg your pardon? I’m grocery shopping, not preparing for a lecture. So I just respond with a simple “No.” But that wasn’t good enough, she wanted more. “Well, it’s always around Easter,” she says. Most of the time, but not always. There is a completely separate discussion on that coincidence. But I didn’t say anything, thinking I’d be on my way. Did I mention I’m shopping?

So instead of being the snappy-pants I was starting to sound like, I put my things in the cart and began what would become a 30-plus minute discussion about Passover and how it is NOT Jewish Easter. That Passover is one of the most sacred holidays in Judaism and it commemorates our leaving Egypt and no longer being slaves. I explained that we celebrate with a dinner called a seder and we read a special book (a hagadah). I continue by explaining the Passover story is actually in the Old Testament (beginning roughly with Exodus 7:14). It still wasn’t enough! I’m pretty well versed on this but it’s 10:30am and I’m in shopping mode, not religious discussion mode. I wasn’t trying to argue with her, but I didn’t want my people’s holy day turned in to something it wasn’t.

I don’t mind answering questions about Passover.  And yes, there are many who say the Passover seder was The Last Supper.  I’m Jewish, but I’m not a rabbi, I don’t know everything! And, I figured if I gave a brief overview, that would be sufficient and the lady would go on her way. But nothing I said was enough, and she kept calling it Jewish Easter.

No, ma’am, it’s not Jewish Easter, it’s Passover. I really wanted to just say there are no bunnies or colored eggs or baskets of fake grass and even though we dress nicely Passover is really a time when chilling out in yoga pants would be fully acceptable. But I didn’t. And I think she could sense my frustration at the whole ‘Jewish Easter’ thing.

Eventually she’d had enough of me my riveting scholarly dissertation on Passover, and she moved on.  I didn’t want to offend her but at the same time I wanted her to understand that calling it ‘Jewish Easter’ was, at minimum, off-putting to me.  Just like Hanukkah is not ‘Jewish Christmas,’ Passover is not ‘Jewish Easter’ simply by virtue of the fact that these holidays fall around the same time of the year.  I know that Passover is not often explained to the general public, in purely Jewish terms.  And I appreciate that someone is interested enough to ask about it.

So while I felt awkward when it was happening each time, I do see the humor in it …. now.  I’m not offended.  I see the similarities.

Passover begins with the first seder on Monday, March 29th. There will be plenty of food – yes, we’ll have some eggs.  But, alas, no chocolate bunnies.

“In every generation, each of us must see ourselves as if we personally came out of Egypt.”  Next year in Jerusalem!

If you have any questions about Passover, I’ll be happy to answer them.  You can call it ‘Jewish Easter’, but know that I will be laughing with you as this is now our own (not-so) private joke.



TracyC March 25, 2010 at 12:55 pm

I think you were talking to my grandmother 😛 Okay, not really but that is her view on it too.

Rhonda March 25, 2010 at 2:26 pm

It’s a shame that Christians don’t know a little bit more about Passover. I can’t say why we call it Easter, to be honest, but Jesus was crucified just prior to the beginning of Passover. HE is the sacrificial LAMB that takes away the sins of the world.
That’s the nutshell version of the connectedness of Easter and Passover.

Blessings, Rhonda

Brittney March 29, 2010 at 3:09 pm

We spent alot of time on the Passover at church this Sunday and I totally thought of you and this post. I think we’ve all been in similar situations where we feel like we have to defend our religious (or non-religious) beliefs and I think it’s really nice that you took the time to answer this lady’s questions. Hopefully she went away with a better understanding of your beliefs and can even appreciate the Passover as its own event and cause for celebration this year.

Sara March 29, 2010 at 10:36 pm

Brittney, thank you for stopping by and sharing. I’m glad my post was something that was able to connect to your service. I don’t ever mind explaining Jewish holidays. I’d rather help someone understand what we’re celebrating so we can live more harmoniously with one another.

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