Clergy Corner: Easter – Passover Connection

GENA ESTRIN
Passover seder plate for preparing ritual items used or eaten during the re-telling of the Israelites’ Exodus from slavery.

■ By Gena Estrin / Contributed

This year, the holiday of Easter overlaps with the holiday of Passover. The eight days of the Jewish Holiday of Passover will be celebrated after sundown on Friday, April 19, and will end at sundown on Saturday, April 27. Easter Sunday falls in the middle of the week of Passover, on Sunday, April 21. Are you puzzled why Easter Sunday does not always fall on the same day every year? For example, Easter Sunday fell on 4/21/2014, 4/5/2015, 3/27/2016, 4/16/2017, and 4/1/2018. Also, why do the Israelites (the Jewish people) celebrate their Jewish holidays on different days each year?
Early Christians celebrated Pascha. The name Pascha is a Greek transliteration of the Aramaic word cognate to the Hebrew “Pesach.” Pesach is the Hebrew word originally designated for the Passover feast described in Exodus 12. Another name for Easter is “Resurrection Sunday,” as it celebrates the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, which is described in the New Testament as having occurred on the third day of his burial after his crucifixion by the Romans at Calvary c.30 AD.
According to timeanddate.com, “Easter falls on the first Sunday after the Full Moon, and is based on mathematical calculations, that designate Easter to fall on or after March 21. If the Full Moon is on a Sunday, Easter is celebrated on the following Sunday.” However, there is more to determining the celebration date of Easter.
The Easter holiday and Pesach, or Passover holiday, are related to the beginning of spring in the Northern Hemisphere, the March equinox. The equinox varies between March 19 and March 22, and depends on the time zone. The Paschal Full Moon to determine the date of Easter is based on mathematical approximations of a 19-year cycle called the Metonic cycle. There may be confusion when the March equinox and Paschal Full Moon do not coincide with the actual astronomical dates of these events.
This year the ecclesiastical Full Moon, based on the church’s lunar calendar, occurred on March 20, one day before the ecclesiastical date of the March equinox on Thursday, March 21. Easter 2019 is based on the next ecclesiastical Full Moon, which is on April 18, so therefore Easter will be celebrated on the following Sunday, April 21.
The Jewish or Hebrew calendar is based on a lunisolar calendar. As mentioned above, the Paschal Full Moon to determine the date of Easter is based on mathematical approximations of a 19-year cycle called the Metonic cycle. On the Hebrew calendar, a 13th month is periodically added to the Hebrew lunisolar calendar to keep the Hebrew calendar in sync with the astronomical seasons of Earth and catch up with the Gregorian solar calendar. A leap month is added to the Hebrew calendar every two to three years or seven times in a 19-year cycle. Making a leap of faith, the 19-year cycle, is most likely based on the same Metonic cycle for Easter as it is for Passover.
The Christian holiday of Easter and the Jewish holiday of Passover are inextricably linked to one another. The Last Supper of Jesus was, in fact, a Passover Seder. When Jesus lifted his cup of wine (one of four cups of wine included within the Passover Seder) and proclaimed “… this is my blood…” and then lifted the unleavened bread (matzah) declaring “… this is my body,” he established the rite of the Eucharist that remembers and celebrates his last supper by future generations of his followers.
Many other symbols of each holiday are interconnected as well. Hard boiled eggs, either peeled and eaten as a beginning of the Passover meal or colorfully decorated and hidden to be found by our children on Easter, are symbolic of the renewal of life. Similar to the hunt for Easter eggs, children during the Passover seder are also offered a prize for searching and finding the “Afikomen,” the desert matzah that we all must eat in order to complete our meal and finish the telling of the exodus from slavery by our ancestors.
Both holidays emphasize doing charity and giving of oneself to help yourself and others to raise their human spirit to be more godly. During the seder, one is supposed to diminish the wine, by spilling some of it. This symbolically reduces our celebration and joy of freedom, by removing a drop of wine for every plague suffered by the Egyptians. Remembering that Jesus’ blood was spilled to atone for the sins of others, also diminishes the joy of celebrating his resurrection.
Passover is a holiday celebrating one of the greatest series of miracles ever experienced in history, i.e. the ten plagues visited upon the Egyptians that lead to Pharaoh granting the Israelites freedom from bondage; the parting of the Red Sea before the Israelites; and the subsequent drowning of the Egyptians in pursuit when Pharaoh changed his mind and chased after the fleeing Israelites. Easter celebrates the miracle of the resurrection of Jesus. Both holidays are times for all people to reach above nature to recognize the miraculous gifts of freedom of choice and righteous living granted to us by God!

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