The relationship between Passover and Easter

In a few days we will start the feast of Passover. Together with Shavuot and Sukkot, Passover was one of the Three Pilgrimage Festivals (Shlosha Regalim) during which the entire population of Judah and Israel were instructed to make a pilgrimage to the Temple in Jerusalem.

On any normal year, this is one of the most packed times in Israel from a tourism perspective and especially in Jerusalem. This is not the case this year. As absurd as this may sound, normally many Israelis actually try to stay away from Jerusalem during these times as it’s simply too packed. This year though, something interesting is happening.

Due to the fact that Israel’s borders have just opened but tourists are not yet allowed in (don’t worry, this is scheduled to change very soon), Jerusalem will be relatively empty while almost everything has opened up again, almost as if Covid-19 is no longer here.

How is Passover celebrated?

While Jews celebrate Passover and tell the “Hagada” (the story of Passover) at the holiday table, most don’t really realize that this unique holiday offers a link to our Christian brothers and sisters. See, it is on this holiday that a young Rabi from the Galilee comes (as required) to Jerusalem in order to participate in the traditional rites almost 2,000 years ago. His name is one of the most known names in the world today. Do you know who I am referencing to?

Thousands of years ago, these pilgrimages were conducted during the existence of the Temples (1st and 2nd) in Jerusalem. As those do not exist anymore, the modern pilgrimage of Jews heads towards The West Wall instead. If you want to understand more about this, contact us and schedule your very own Virtual Experience and we’ll be happy to take you on your private tour of Jerusalem .

What is Holy Week?

This week we also encounter the beginning of the special week that leads to Easter as that is the Christian name associated with this time. During this week, Christians will celebrate ultimately the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The traditional statement “He is risen” comes from the fact that by Christian tradition, Jesus rose from the dead 3 days after his execution and burial.

Last year, on these very dates, as a modern plague (Covid-19) hit the world, even the Holy Sepulcher Church (believed to be Jesus’ site of execution, burial and Resurrection by many) was closed to the public and the ceremonies were broadcasted by internet. The same will happen this year. However, the Church will be open to limited attendance and some Israelis are very likely to take the opportunity and visit.

What was the Passover in Exodus?

The holiday of Passover is mostly associated with the Book of Exodus, in which, God helped the Hebrews in escaping from slavery in ancient Egypt by inflicting ten plagues upon the Egyptians before Pharaoh agreed to release the Hebrew slaves. The 10th plague was the death of the Egyptian first-borns. The Hebrews were instructed to mark the doorposts of their homes with the blood of a slaughtered spring lamb and, upon seeing this, the spirit of the Lord knew to pass over the first-born in these homes, hence the English name of the holiday = Passover (Pass-Over).

10 plagues of Egypt

In the Jewish tradition, we mark these plagues by dripping wine for our glasses for each one:

  1. Turning water into blood (Exodus 7:14-24)
  2. Frogs (Exodus 7:25 – 8:15)
  3. Lice (Exodus 8:16-19)
  4. Wild Animals (Exodus 8:20-32)
  5. Pestilence of livestock (Exodus 9:1-7)
  6. Boils (Exodus 9:8-12)
  7. Thunderstorm of hail and fire (Exodus 9:13-35)
  8. Locusts (Exodus 10:1-20)
  9. Darkness (Exodus 10:21-29)
  10. Death of the firstborns (Exodus 11:1-12:36)

Why Do We Spill Wine on Passover Night?

In Judaism, wine drinking is very much an accepted practice and is associated with celebrations. We drink 4 cups on Passover Eve. In some Christian traditions, though, it has become associated with sinful behaviors and is not as commonly accepted. Regardless, the Jewish customs have not changed in over 2,000 years and even Rabbis who operated during the times of the Temples drank wine. 

What does sacrificing a lamb symbolize?

The connotation of Jesus as the ultimate sacrifice is made by many and the statement “Sacrificed for our (humanity) sins” is associated with that.
Jesus is regarded by many as the “sacrificial lamb” and this is associated with the sacrificial rites performed in the Temple during his time.

However, what about the connection to the 10th plague inflicted on the Egyptians a thousand years before his time? Jesus wasn’t just the firstborn son of Joseph and Mary. By Christian tradition he was the Son of God.

When one reads the Bible through the Christian lens, you cannot escape the connection of the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus (as is marked in the various Gospels) and the Binding of Isaac. Abraham’s first born that was almost sacrificed and God’s first born who is. To this we may choose to add the connection to all the firstborns who die at the hands of the Angel in Egypt and the firstborn of God who dies at the hands of men.

What else does the holiday of Passover celebrate?

The holiday of Passover is known by additional names and as it marks the beginning of Spring in Israel, we traditionally go out to enjoy the bloom. It is the time of birth and rejuvenation. It is also the time Jesus returned from the dead and walked again as we was “reborn”.

Many ask me if all these connections are simply by chance or are they part of a grand design. To this I always answer “It’s all a matter of who is looking at the occurrence in question”. I think that while we may not all share the same perspective about these issues, we should at least try to understand each other’s perspectives and attempt to grasp what is important to the other.

Now, if this confused you, try answering why Matza (flat unleavened bread) is eaten by Jews on Passover? And don’t go answering “because they couldn’t wait for the bread to rise before escaping Egypt” as that is too simple. There is a bigger answer hidden there, one that we may explore together next year 😉

May we have a blessed holiday season and may this truly be a time of rejuvenation for the world and for us.

Happy holidays ?

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