Monday, March 25, 2013

Passover Begins and My Own Haggadah

Painting the lintel with lambs blood so the Lord will know who to pass over.

Tonight is the first night of Passover.  My best wishes to all of my Jewish friends and all who find inspiration a story of liberation from bondage. 
The annual eight day festival (seven days in Israel) begins on the 15th day of Nissan.  According to the story told in Exodus God unleashed ten plagues on Egypt before Pharaoh would release the Hebrews he held as slaves.  The final plague was the death of all first born sons.  Jews marked their homes with lamb’s blood on the door posts so that the spirit of the Lord would “pass over” those houses.  The grieving Pharaoh relented and let the Jews go, although he would change his mind and pursue them.  But that’s another story. 
The traditions of the Passover feast are outlined in the Hebrew scripture making them among the most ancient of continually observed religious celebrations in the world.  On the first night families gather for a Seder meal, the ingredients of which are prescribed and highly symbolic in re-telling the story.  A service is read from the Haggadah and is in the form of questions asked by the eldest son of the father. 
Christians believe that the Last Super was a Seder meal, linking the two observances.  In recent years some Christians have taken to celebrating Seder meals to connect to the Jewish roots of their faith.  This is a development that is embraced as a bridge to cultural understanding by some, and as an abomination by traditional Jews.  Many Reform congregations invite non-Jews to attend special Seder meals.  I once got to open the door for Elijah.
This year the first night of Passover begins at sunset the day after Christian Palm Sunday, which marks the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem  and is the beginning of Holy Week.  Last year in a rare calendar coincidence, Passover shared the evening with Good Friday, when Christians mark the death of Jesus on the Cross. 
On that same night I hosted a benefit evening of song and poetry with bluesman Andy Cohen at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation in McHenry (now Tree of Life—A UU Congregation in McHenry County),  Naturally, I committed poetry for the occasion. That poem works even better this year as it reference’s Jesus’s entry into Jerusalem.

Brief Haggadah for Passover/Good Friday
For Social Gospel in Words and Music
April 6, 2012

The child always asks…
            What makes this night different
            from all other nights?

You have to think hard.

Somewhere children are always
being massacred for some
accident of birth
            or for mere convenience sake.

Somewhere slaves are plotting their escape
            and Pharaohs hitch their war chariots
            to pursue them. 

Somewhere fools dance
            and lay fronds before the path
            of a maybe Messiah on an ass.

What makes this night different?
            Nothing, son, except that
            you asked the right question.
            Now, what are we going
            to do about it?

—Patrick Murfin

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