Understanding Passover – report

As a preparation for our celebration of the Sacred Triduum — Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday, we invited Rabbi Alexander Grodensky, rabbi of the liberal synagogue in Esch, to give us insight into the Jewish celebration of Passover.

Rabbi Alexander explained the multi-layered understanding of Passover in Judaism: Spring festival, calling to mind God’s rescue of the Hebrew people from slavery in Egypt, and a contemporary call to social justice. The Christian focus on Passover as prefiguring God’s saving action in Jesus Christ (the narrative in the Book of Exodus) is not central in Judaism, at least not liberal Judaism. What came across strongly was that Passover (‘Pesach’) is a living, evolving tradition. Also, that Judaism is not simply a religion of what we would call the Old Testament, but that belief takes account of conversation and lively debate, and that the tradition is multi-stranded.

Question time (in an uncomfortably full meeting room) produced interesting questions and answers: is there a central authority in Judaism; what is the contemporary Jewish understanding of Messiah; are there Jewish rites equivalent to the Sacraments of the Catholic Church (including forgiveness of sins); does conversion to Judaism require renunciation of belief in the afterlife; what is the language of the liturgy — and more.

There was clear consensus that our parish would profit greatly from inviting Rabbi Alexander to speak to us again.

Fr Ed

Rabbi Alexander, ‘Understanding Passover’.