Friday, April 3, 2015

Happy Passover and/or Easter


     Good Friday falls on the first night of Passover this year.
     Or, if you prefer Passover begins on Good Friday. 
     Whichever one comes first in your world, their overlap is fitting, as these holidays are when the two great Abrahamic faiths draw closest to one another.
    "Nowhere is the relationship between Judaism and Christianity better demonstrated than in the comparison of Easter with Passover," writes Jack Santino, a scholar of  holidays at Bowling Green University. 
     He points out many Christians consider the Last Supper a Seder and Christians increasingly hold Seders themselves—president Obama holds one at the White House every year (which, if you are of the alarmingly large minority of conservatives, might instead count as a Muslim holding a Seder). Meanwhile Jews will invite Christians to join them at their Seders, something I've done myself, first warning that it is a meal that begins by dipping celery in salt water and ends, six hours later, by singing a song about a goat.
     I could fill the column with examples. Eggs are big in Easter, being dyed or cast in chocolate, and in Passover, appearing on the Seder plate, gobbled by the bowlful—reminders us that religion can be a binding force, or it could be a separating force.
     The idea that we all our united by the commonalities of our religions generally sits waiting on the sidelines while a far more popular, far more energetic tradition—push your religion in the face of others—is given full play. We've been seeing this in the frenzy over "religious freedom laws," which are not designed to make sure you're free to be just as loving as your faith dictates, but rather to allow small business owners to better shun the people they've traditionally despised, using what they consider religious justification to do so.
     I heard from a representative of the Thomas More Society this week, asking me if I wanted to talk about Thursday evening's erection of a 19-foot cross in Daley Plaza to mark Easter.
     My initial reaction was, "And you want to talk to me?" But, getting in the spirit of the season, instead I said, "Sure."
     "There's a legal background to this," began Tom Brejcha, founder of the society, a public interest law firm, explaining how the organization was formed out of the legal struggle to keep a Nativity scene on Daley Plaza, after the ACLU objected to the fact that, even though a tradesman's union paid for the tableau, the city stored it and assembled it which put City Hall in the celebration of religion business.
     A valid point?
     "The idea is free speech," Brejcha said. "They have political rallies. All variety of expression. I watched Bill Clinton give a talk there once. So its a traditional public forum, with the government's role as a neutral gatekeeper We have a Constitutional right."
     I told Brejcha: when I pass Daley Plaza at Christmastime, and see the displays—their life-sized Nativity scene, tooth-by-jowl with that brutish steel Menorah plus whatever star and crescent the Muslims add, and a wan, really-is-this-the-best-you-can-do spindly red "A" set up by the atheists—I do not think, "Ah, the glory of belief manifesting itself through the miracle of free speech in the public square." Rather it seems a sad pissing contest that diminishes them all, led by Christians hot to thrust their symbolism into the heart of nondenominational government, and the other faiths following along, sheeplike, with a wan cry of "Hey, we're here too!"
     "It should start a lot of discussion," he said. "I urge people to look at the secular significance of Easter, the second chance," he said. (I should probably plump Passover, with its emphasis on freedom from slavery though, now that I examine them together, the two concepts aren't really that different).
     But shouldn't government build roads and levy taxes and keep itself a neutral space free of professions of faith? Aren't we hurtling toward a Daley Plaza filled with crosses and giant matzo balls and three-story Baal deities with red eyes and curling horns, while inconvenienced pedestrians try to thread their way through all this monolithic symbolism?          Wouldn't it be easier to leave that to our respective houses of worship?
     "That was part of the Protestant approach, to make it more private," he said. "I'm a lawyer, I believe in free speech, the role of government is to protect the speaker."
     He reminded me of the May 1 gatherings of anarchists on Daley Plaza. If they get to present their vision of a lawless chaos—and I agree they should—then why not mark the resurrection of Jesus?
     He must be a good lawyer, because while I couldn't quite say I agree with him, I stopped disagreeing.
     Santino, by the way, in his very useful book, All Around the Year, points out something about Easter I didn't know. That Protestants call the night of the last supper "Maundy Thursday."
     "Maundy is a corruptionn of mandate because on Thursday of that week, Christ proclaimed an new commandment, that we should all love one another," he writes. "Maundy is a corruption of mandate from the Latin Dies Mandati, Day of the Mandate, in recognition of this new commandment."
     It's true: John 13:34. ""A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another."
     Wow, why can't  more people emphasize that? It sure would have saved Indiana a lot of heartache this week.


51 comments:

  1. To me, it's not truly Easter unless Ch. 7 screens C.B DeMille's "The Ten Commandments" on Sunday night. Much more about Passover than the Resurrection, with all those great 50s actors--Chuck Heston, Ann Baxter, Eddy Robinson, Vinny Price, Johhny Derek-- "hamming" it up (see what I did there?!). And it takes a male actor with unique gifts to appear successfully menacing in a skirt (Y. Brynner). Finally: I COMPLETELY BIT on the Puppet Month gag. I was like O Neil NO!!!...

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    1. Got me too, although my sister did
      see through it...

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    2. Funny, I always think of "The Ten Commandments" being shown on Palm Sunday, the week before Easter. Maybe it depended on when Passover was. Anyway, it IS coming up on Sunday night. Regardless, one of my favorites, as well. "Oh, Moses!!"

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    3. 12 am postings, Neil you need to get to sleep sooner, for your own health.

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  2. Great article today and so true about the competition display diminishing them all. Too bad that just the Christian and Jewish symbols alone could be displayed but that's pc for you.

    Is Passover the feast where the unleavened bread is used for the meal?

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    1. Some atheists are so bitter, spending their days looking for some rel. symbol that they can go to court over.

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    2. You don't have to be an atheist to believe that Mr. Jefferson's "wall of separation between church and state," is an important principle, one that has spared Americans much of the religious tyranny and conflict that other countries have suffered. James Madison, the "Father of the Constitution" and a practicing Episcopalian, said rightly that it is good for both Church and State.

      Tom Evans

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    3. Agreed, Mr. Evans about our often Deist forefathers. However, some go overboard
      worrying if a religious word appears even on the school calendar. I guess the word Christmas really wrecks the church and state mix.

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  3. I love that 11th commandment idea! Whether or not you actually add it to a list of official commands from an unseen and debated omnipotent being, it's an admirable and worthy objective.

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  4. Yes, Passover is the holiday with the matzo (see, that's the different between being Jewish and being Christian. Yesterday, a commenter was incredulous at the thought that I didn't know the Easter story until I saw "Jesus Christ Superstar." The idea that even people who don't follow his faith aren't steeped in it anyway was incomprehensible to him. While being Jewish, you meet people who expect you to have horns, and you patiently explain the most basic aspects of the religion cause, heck, it's a big world. To me, that's the central benefit of the religion--makes you an outsider (except in Israel, with obvious results) forces you to think about stuff, and explain it.

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    1. I attended a Seder in England many years ago at the invitation of my landlords, who were Jews, originally from Austria like their next door neighbors, the Freud's.. We had, as memory serves, "toad in the hole" as a main dish with "spotted dick pudding" for dessert. I guess not all Jews are the same. Or maybe they sometimes do as the Romans do. There was matzo though.

      Tom

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    2. Re: When Neil learned about Christianity. You know, Christians learn a fair amount about Jewish Biblical history, Genesis, the Ten Commandments, etc., because the Christian Bible INCLUDES the Old Testament. Christianity, to Christians, is supposedly the fulfillment of the Jewish background contained in the Old Testament. Abraham, Moses, David, etc., are important figures to Christians, as well as Jews. So, of course Christians are somewhat familiar with Jewish figures from an early age. It doesn't work the other way. Why would Jews be inclined to learn, or teach their kids about, a religious figure that they don't even consider significant to their beliefs?

      Seems to me the analogy would be to Christians learning about Mormonism. As Jews might consider Christianity a misguided off-shoot of their ancient faith, with no special place for Christ in their thinking, many Christians consider the Mormon faith a misguided off-shoot of THEIR ancient faith, with a less-than-welcoming attitude toward Joseph Smith. And, how many Christian parents go out of their way to teach their children about the Golden Plates?

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    3. Mormonism is a cult in the modern age. No, this isn't about how Romans and Jews considered Christianity a cult in antiquity times. That is the difference. But agree and it's been mentioned, before , Jews have no need to go past the OT.

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    4. lol, about the "some expect you to have horns"

      good one

      Well look at the anti Semitism in the era of the Plague. Unfort. and unfairly, Jews were blamed for that too. I've read good history books about that.

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    5. You mean the golden plates that never existed?
      That every time Smith "translated" them, he did it differently?
      That he only reason for his crackpot cult was that he & his equally sex crazed followers wanted to & then got to have sex with lots of women.
      Or that the Mormons still lie about polygamy or "plural marriage" as they euphemistically call it, as the "mainstream" Mormon Church still believes that every man will have his own planet after death & all the "wives" he wants on it.
      Of course, they can't have the planet "Kobol", because that's where their "god" lives!

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    6. Well said, Clark St. Only the scientologists are crazier.

      By the way Neil, we'd love to hear your thoughts on easing people's sufferings on this new legislation like in No. Carolina, being pushed for letting people having assisted suicides. I' m leary of the born again fanatics who thinks it's a death panel, a la crazy S. Palin. It isn't and sometimes hospice isn't enough. I know, I dealt with elder care on both parents, one with serious dementia.

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    7. That's probably worth a column, but in brief, end-of-life is hard, the old, cling-to-the-ghost dynamic has become a recipe for torturing the dying, expensively. "Assisted-suicide" is a bad phrase--I'm more for giving people more complete control over their end-life treatment, even if that includes more barbiturates than is safe. I don't think "assisted suicide" will fly in a country (ours) where buzzwords are more important than realities.

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    8. Yes, well said. The elder suffer while the pharmaceutical industry , hospitals and nursing homes or memory care centers make big $ and whoat to those who can't afford that type of help or whoa to their families/ grown kids.

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    9. And then Medicaid and Medicare gets drained, keeping people alive with poor quality of life-of course the conservatives will want to cut that more while they allow tax breaks on the uber wealthy or want to fund wars instead or poor money overseas at our social care expense.

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    10. thanks for your insight, Mr. S

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    11. Jewel sells an excellent Jewish, rabbi approved instant, dry chicken soup, if you are ver in a pinch. not as good as homemade but as said, in a pinch or to take to work, It's in their ethnic/kosher food grocery aisle. I'm not Jewish but we still use it in my household. My young adult daughter likes it for a lunch. The gefilte fish in the jar,
      Manishewitz is it? brand? we tried just for curiosity, no thanks, most of it got discarded, prob not good if not homemade- the wine, no, too sweet, being Italian/Amer. we prefer European or Calif style wines. One of the best history teachers I ever had was Jewish reformed, female,very liberal too.

      Having studied later some immigrant Hist. at grad level at UIC, the Russian Jewish exodus from the pograms to NY city, is a fave and most interesting period of study.

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    12. Oh, just came to me, "Tradition" is the name of that instant kosher, dry soup.

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  5. don't assume, that incredulous commenter is a "her"

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    1. This is one of several reasons why it might be helpful for you to identify yourself in some way beyond "Anonymous." No need for a real name, of course, but some kind of pseudonym or even initials would be nice, as it's becoming increasingly difficult to differentiate among the anonymice who are commenting so frequently of late on EGD. : )

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    2. Good idea!

      signed, Lady anonymous

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  6. I know several fundamentalists who treat Easter as the primary holiday of Christianity and look on Christmas with near contempt as an un-Biblically supported substitute for the pagan winter equinox celebration.

    Anyway, radio stations should play easter songs for at least a day, given that they play Christmas songs, like, a third of the year. Here's a few: https://bandbookinc.wordpress.com/2013/03/23/its-easter-lets-rock/


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    1. fundamentalists are often overly conservative whackos- mainstream prots and caths don't care for them and vice-versa

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  7. A fine column for the occasion, indeed. But, apropos of Sandy's comment about nit-picky readers yesterday, I gotta ask. "Aren’t we hurdling toward a Daley Plaza filled with crosses and giant matzo..." Hurdling or hurtling? : )

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    1. You prob check your posts 5 times or more obsessively before you post.

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    2. And even if I did, that would affect you how? FYI, giving Neil a heads-up about a typo in his column in the S-T, which will live online for years, one hopes, bears no relation to whether my comments here are riddled with errors, or not. If he's interested enough to have the column be right, your frustration with what you consider to be my "o/c tendencies" isn't gonna be keeping me up at night.

      As long as we're taking shots, though, which do you think your buddy Mr. S. finds more annoying -- tips about typos in his column, or advice about when he should go to bed, based on the ridiculous assumption that he physically posts these entries precisely at midnight, when that's an automatic function of the blog?

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  8. Thanks. Typo. Should be "hurtling." I'll fix. Thanks.

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    1. Please don't be so humble to Mr. Jackass.

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    2. Have you considered changing your handle from Anonymous to Annoying?

      Seems more appropriate to your personality.

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    3. not a bad idea, Ms. C.

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  9. Jakash, go find something to do. Get some help for o/c tendencies.

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  10. Neil, I think I know why you like the May Day gatherings of anarchists but not the Daley Plaza melange of religious memorabilia. After reading your column today I thought: aesthetic...ethical...aesthetic...ethical. The Daley Plaza display is offputting not because of what it means in terms of the philosophy of law, but because it looks bad. The jostling-for-position aspect looks bad, and the mediocre artistic aspect of the hardware looks bad. (I'm thinking of Paul Fussell's book, "Bad, or: The Dumbing of America.") Bad aesthetics overwhelm whatever one might think about the ethical issue. On the other hand, what you like about the anarchist gatherings is that they do, indeed, appeal to your sense of justice. Very ethical; and we really don't care about the aesthetic part. They are supposed to be rag-tag; a bunch of anarchists in Polo or Abercrombie would be bad in its own way. Maybe this means that we have certain ideas about how things should be properly presented while they fulfill their ethical part. A senate committee in clown suits would be bad, even if the idea seems appropriate. A baseball team playing the game in three-piece suits would be bad, for some reason. A civil rights march featuring the Oscar Meyer wienermobile...and so forth. Cultural dissonance? I'm sure dissertations have been written about this. Pesach sameach!

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    1. sounds like you swallowed a dictionary

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  11. Jesus Christ Superstar was useful in many ways for explaining the Easter story. From it, I learned about the high priests, who kind of got glossed over during my Sunday School years. Long ago, I interviewed the actor who played Judas on Broadway, and he told me he only learned to pronounce "Gethsemane" and "Iscariot" properly after he was cast. And he was a nice Catholic boy from Hoboken, New Jersey. Happy whatever-you-celebrate to all.

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    1. I'm very fond of the original film version of Jesus Christ Superstar. I have the DVD and. play it once a year around the holidays. It's educational as well as entertaining.

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    2. Ah, I see the cute dog in the picture.

      The kosher salt is ready I see for the horseradish sauce, presumably.

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    3. Watching "Jesus Christ Superstar" was very educational for me, a Christian. it was the first time I started wondering what the real story about Mary Magdalene's relationship with Jesus was ...

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    4. nice, granite counter tops in the photo

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    5. Wow Tonia you interviewed Carl Anderson? His singing on the '73 record was awesome. The movie was annoying. Bad editing and direction. But the story was well told.

      F

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  12. @Kevin Byrnes -- Swing and a miss. What I WROTE, as opposed to what you imagine I wrote, is that anarchists should be allowed to protest. That isn't saying I like it. You are correct about the aesthetic paucity of the religious displays -- a finely wrought Nativity scene could be a thing of beauty.

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    1. Sorry--I wasn't clear enough. I understand t's not the lawless chaos you like, but you do like the idea that they are free to publicly express themselves about it--nu? I felt that way back when we officed at 20 E. Jackson, and I would lean out my 6th floor window to watch the huge stream of people plowing along the street below towards Grant Park. It occurred to me that I probably didn't share 100% of their views, but I still thought it was a beautiful thing...the concept, that is, that we can have big protests that run their course, the various pieces having been spoken, and then we get back to everyday life.

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  13. Thank goodness the President preserved in doing things right to Iran. We don't want to roll over for Iran or any Muslim nation but we can't always be Israel's lackey either. The Republicans who are mostly vested in the warmongering manufacturing industries, don't like it. But they like war as long as someone else besides their kids or grandkids do the fighting for them.

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    1. Mr. S., we'd love to hear your thoughts on the above issue as well.

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    2. See SunTimes for more coverage (other posters)

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  14. As long as we're being sticklers, I think the inconvenienced pedestrians could more properly be said to be threading their way through a plaza filled with polylithic symbolism.


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  15. Speaking of that, Rahm put in all those bike paths and now cars/ traffic have less space than ever and more congestion. There was a good readers feedback comment on that in the ST recently.

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Thanks for commenting. As soon as I vet your remarks, they'll be posted, assuming they aren't, you know, mean and crazy.