I must have been about 10 or 11 when I first visited a synagogue. Our Sunday school teacher had arranged the tour, and the rabbi graciously welcomed our wide-eyed gaggle of juveniles.
Simply by entering, we knew this was a sacred place. We were all eyes and ears taking in the unfamiliar surroundings as the kind rabbi explained the various symbols. I wish I could remember his words. I can never forget the awe that overwhelmed me.
There is no better time than Holy Week to recall those memories, especially this year. Passover and Holy Week overlap, as they often do. It’s an excellent time to remember our Judeo/Christian heritage.
From Palm Sunday to Easter morning, we experience the whole gamut of human emotions, actions, and reactions. The historical and spiritual significance of humanity’s triumphs and failures are on full display. Jewish and Christian roots run deep into humankind’s evolution.
Passover, a major Jewish holiday, began at sundown, March 27, and ends the evening of April 4, Easter Sunday. The miracle of Passover commemorated the Israelites exodus from Egypt and began their transition from slavery to freedom.
The Seder is the central ritual of Passover, occurring the first two nights. The retelling of the Exodus story accompanied by psalms and songs highlight a festive meal of traditional foods.
With Jerusalem teaming with people, Jesus rode into the city on the day we now call Palm Sunday. By Maunday Thursday, the scene had turned more solemn at the last supper. Good Friday, Jesus’ crucifixion and death occurred to the great horror of his followers.
On the third day, the miracle of Jesus’ resurrection occurred. Today, we call it Easter morning.
That was always a day that I anticipated as a child, more for the secular celebrative goodies than the mystical resurrection story. That always fascinated me, but being a child, I was more interested in more tangible traditions.
I wasn’t alone. My four siblings joined in the fun. We cherished the challenge to find our woven Easter baskets chocked full of chocolate bunnies, jelly beans, and the hard-boiled eggs that we had colored the day before.
The over-sized Easter Bunny (our father was six-foot, two inches tall) didn’t make it easy on us. If we accidentally found a brother or sister’s basket, we kept quiet, not wanting to spoil their fun.
We always knew that the baskets were somewhere in the house, usually on the main floor. However, I once found my Easter basket in the basement in the washing machine.
Once that fun was over, we hurriedly dressed up for Easter Sunday worship service. We often took a family photo before heading to the always-packed sanctuary.
After church, we couldn’t wait to return home, where our saintly mother had fixed an Easter ham with all the trimmings. An Easter egg hunt outside often followed the noontime meal.
My wife and I continued those traditions with our children. They enjoyed the searching as much as I had in my childhood.
Of course, age, life experiences, and maturity appropriately alter one’s perspective on holidays, along with many other life events. That’s as it should be.
As a grandfather, I am more focused on the more meaningful reasons for Passover and Easter. We still enjoy hiding the decorated eggs for the grandkids while I can still maneuver to hide them in a downspout or reach high into a redbud tree.
Perhaps that has been part of my spiritual resurrection. I still relish the fun stuff of holidays while contemplating the more profound, personal satisfaction of celebrating another Easter morning.