Faith Matters Clergy Column: Rabbi Harold Caminker

April 26, 2014 

What makes our Temple Beth El interfaith Passover seders different from all other seders?

For starters, the Jews in attendance are outnumbered by roughly 7-to-1.

This year's interfaith seder was onApril 8 at St. Joseph Catholic Church.

The Passover story was retold by many of those in attendance, who eagerly took turns reading.

I began by pointing out that we were not about to re-enact the Last Supper. The seder in its current form did not emerge until the second and third centuries of the Common Era. Jesus and his friends may have enjoyed a festive meal in the hills outside Jerusalem, but there was no parsley dipped in saltwater, and our most beloved Passover melody "Dayenu" was not sung.

We wanted our friends at St. Joseph to come to the seder just as it is celebrated by Jews around the world. To do so is to acknowledge our common biblical roots.

We were honored to share with our Christian neighbors Passover's unique sounds and smells and tastes, its heartfelt prayers and the retelling of the exodus of our people following 400 years of slavery in Egypt.

On each table in the large community hall was the wine - four cups for each participant. The whole cup need not be drunk each time, but the cups are filled before each of the blessings. Grape juice is available as an acceptable alternative.

The matza is in the center of the table, symbolizing the bread of affliction eaten by our ancestors as they fled from Egypt in great haste. The parsley is dipped in saltwater, representing the tears of those who are forced to live in bondage. The prophetic cups of Elijah and Miriam are reminders of the Biblical promise of a Messianic time of peace and harmony for the entire world.

At this seder, some of the guests dipped their parsley in saltwater and ate it before the blessing, appearing somewhat embarrassed as I said: "And now you can eat the parsley."

Some who were unfamiliar with horseradish downed a mouthful, then spent the next few minutes gasping for breath and sweating profusely while friends offered water and sympathy.

Temple Beth El has known the joy of leading interfaith seders at a number of churches in Manatee County.

Perhaps we will be invited to your house of worship next year.

As the seder concludes, we all shout together "Next year in Jerusalem!"

My thanks to Father Tom and his wonderful St. Joseph staff for working with us to present this year's interfaith seder. This event would be impossible without the time and effort given by the devoted members of Temple Beth El and the women of our temple sisterhood.

Rabbi Harold Caminker, can be reached at 941-755-4900 (temple), 941-806-9925 (cell), ravhfc1@aol.com (email). Faith Matters is a regular feature of Saturday's Herald, written by local clergy members.

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