By DAVID LAZARUS, ISRAEL TODAY—
That is the title of a new book by Reform Rabbi Evan Moffic, who demonstrates a deep appreciation for the central place of Jesus in the Jewish Passover. In his book, which came out in February just in time for the holiday, Moffic hopes to help Christians understand the intimate connection between Judaism and Christianity in the Passover, the principal festival for both Jews and Christians.
“Exploring the Passover helps us learn more about the context of Jesus’ own religious and spiritual life, and it sheds light on Easter, the resurrection of Jesus and the meaning of redemption,” he explains.
Written in a popular style for a wide audience, the rabbi’s book should appeal to Christians wanting an inside, intimate look at a traditional Jewish Passover. “Jesus experienced a traditional Passover Seder guided by the blessings and rituals Jews have practiced for three thousand years,” writes Moffic. “The stories and interpretations he heard are ones still taught at Jewish Passover Seders today. In this book you are invited to experience the real thing.”
In a chapter titled, “Celebrating the Passover Seder Yourself: A Haggadah for Home Use by Christians and Jews,” Moffic offers a Passover celebration with annotations for those wanting to commemorate Jesus as the Passover Lamb of God. By including ancient Hebrew prayers and even recommendations for traditional holiday recipes, he provides Christians interested in the Hebrew roots of their faith with an authentic Passover experience.
For example, the rabbi notes that “the shank bone symbolizes the lamb offered as a sacrifice at the Temple in Jerusalem 2,000 years ago. The lamb symbolizes God’s mercy in redeeming the Israelites from slavery to Egypt. In Christian tradition, the lamb symbolizes Jesus, the Lamb of God, whose sacrifice frees believers from the sins of the world.”
Moffic makes it clear throughout the book that the Passover celebration should never be a boring religious tradition, but rather a life-giving experience setting us free from our painful past and giving us hope for a better future. “What meaning do we make out of tragedy and loss? God commanded them to observe a holiday in which they were to make some sort of sense, some sort of meaning, from their loss. The Passover celebration is the medium through which Jews, over the centuries, have remembered and made meaning from the trauma of slavery. They do not define themselves as victim. They do not seek revenge. Rather they hold the first sacred Passover meal telling their story of God’s redemption.”
Moffic offers some unconventional interpretations of the Passover ceremony, many of which are already used in Messianic Seders that seek to join faith in Jesus with the Jewish festival. “In Christian tradition, the three pieces of matzos represent God’s presence as the Father, Son and Holy Ghost,” he writes. “Some Christians interpret the perforations of the matzo as symbolic of the piercings of Jesus on the cross. Jesus is the Bread of Life afflicted in sacrifice yet nourishing the world.”
In a moment of unrestrained candor, Moffic confesses that he has “found great inspiration in the description of love from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians. My own prayer life has been transformed by what I learned from pastors and Christian writers. Quite often I learn more about my own faith.” Conversely, the rabbi reminds us of the ways in which “Jewish wisdom can bring Christians closer to their faith.”
This is not the first time Rabbi Moffic of the Solel Congregation in Chicago writes openly about Jesus. It was with great fascination that I reviewed his previous essay, 5 Rabbis Explain Jesus, which demonstrated that for the better part of the past century, and especially in more recent years, Judaism has been looking to reclaim Jesus (see Israel Today, April 2014).