By Tim Neeley
April was a commemorative month for two of the major religions of the world. Jews commemorated the event of Passover, while Christians celebrated Easter. But the fact that they coincide in time each year is in no way their only similarity. In fact, both holidays have much in common with each other, and both can be a source of wisdom for the world.
Both arriving in spring, the holidays represent renewal and hope in very different ways. along with the renewal of spring comes the promise of redemption, albeit from very Jewish and very Christian perspectives. Passover recalls the exodus from Egypt, a commitment to monotheism and a trust in God. Recalling this historic event "of biblical proportions" no less, Jews of subsequent generations all the way to today nurse within their hearts a yearning for a better tomorrow.
Easter, too is a celebration filled with hope. Jesus' death is a signal of life for all others, according to Christian theology. Due to the suffering of that one individual, others coming after him are saved from the burdens of their sins. While Passover signals the birth of the Jewish people, Easter signals the birth of the Christian faith, because from Jesus' resurrection the religious tradition broke off from its Jewish roots and took on life if its own.
It isn't difficult to see that both Passover and Easter are celebrations of deliverance from despair, hope of a reward from God, the first in a physical sense, the second in a spiritual sense. For two faiths whose histories are so intertwined, what better way than to celebrate the two together?
One way to honor the events of past is to learn lessons from them that contribute to a better future. In his annual Passover address this week, President Obama identified the relevance of this holiday to us today, regardless of faith:
"For that is one of the great lessons of the Exodus. The tale of the Hebrew slaves and their flight from Egypt carries the hope and promise that the Jewish people have held in their hearts for thousands of years, and it is has inspired countless generations in their own struggles for freedom around the globe. In America, the Passover story has always had special meaning. We come from different places and diverse backgrounds, but we are bound together by a journey from bondage to liberty enshrined in our founding documents and continued in each generation... Our world is still in need of repair, but the story of the Exodus teaches us that with patience, determination, and abundant faith, a brighter future is possible."
Similarly, the president explained the significance of Easter's promise not just for Christians but for all Americans:
"The common thread of humanity that connects us all – not just Christians and Jews, but Muslims and Hindus and Sikhs – is our shared commitment to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. To remember, I am my brother’s keeper. I am my sister’s keeper. Whatever your faith, believer or nonbeliever, there’s no better time to rededicate ourselves to that universal mission. For me, Easter is a story of hope – a belief in a better day to come, just around the bend."
For those who aren't as interested in the religious message, we can all at least appreciate the good food, a hallmark of both holidays. Here's a synopsis of the two holidays in a irreverent yet happy way:
A happy Easter and Passover!
Tim Neeley is a social studies teacher in Conroe, where he encourages his students to soak up the wisdom of all faiths. The views expressed here are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of Interfaith Houston.