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Taking A Leap of Faith

My husband and I recently led an instructional Seder for Christians at my Episcopal Church. We were joined by several Jews from our synagogue, who served as guides for our Christian and Muslim guests.  Many of us had been to other Seders, while for a few, this was their first time observing this important Jewish ritual.

Jews will be observing Passover this year beginning Monday evening, April 22, and on that first night Jews are commanded to celebrate with a Seder dinner, reclining and eating unleavened bread (matzoh).  The holiday lasts seven or eight days, depending on which tradition you follow, and during this period, Jews are prohibited from eating any foods with leavening. No bread or wheat products are allowed, and foods made with barley, oats, rye, or spelt flours are also not permitted. 

Typically, Easter falls within Passover, and my husband is always sad that he can’t partake in baked goods at my church’s Easter brunch.  This year, the Jewish calendar had an additional month inserted (this leap year is used  to keep the agrarian festivals like Passover, Shavuot, and Sukkot in the proper season).  So, Passover is 3 weeks after Easter this year.  We will be celebrating Passover with our younger son and our daughter-in-law in Amsterdam.  Meanwhile, my husband got to enjoy cinnamon rolls at the Easter brunch!

Although our instructional Seder did not take place on the prescribed first night of Passover it was authentic, led by Jews steeped in the rituals.  You may see other examples of gatherings of Jews who want to celebrate the Seder with family, friends, or colleagues other than on the first or second night of the holiday. This is permitted - it means we are observing traditions and spreading joy!  And we did spread joy at our instructional Seder!

We had our guides to help our guests understand the various rituals of the Seder. Seder means “order” and we used our Building Bridges Together™ Haggadah to “tell the story,” and make sure that all the prescribed rituals were observed. There are thousands of different types of Haggadahs, with different themes, and each contains the prescribed rituals in the same order.  We created our Haggadah for interfaith Seders, including those for alumni of our Interfaith Bridges™ interfaith dialogue programs. 

Our Haggadah includes the story from Midrash of Nachshon ben Aminadav. Nachshon, the forbear of King David (and Jesus), is standing with the Israelites at the shore of the Sea of Reeds, trapped between the raging sea and the Egyptian chariots in hot pursuit. Moses stands paralyzed in prayer.  Nachshon steps into the sea, and when the water reaches his nose, the sea parts. The Israelites pass through dry shod, with walls of water on their right and left. The waters rush back, covering the pursuing Egyptian army, and its horses and chariots.

This story from the Midrash teaches us that we are commanded NOT to wait for G-d to act but rather to act in the faith that G-d will support us. In our discussions during the Seder dinner, our participants were invited to talk about when they took such a leap of faith, not knowing how things would work out, but trusting or hoping that G-d would be with them. The shared responses to the discussion questions - “When have you taken a leap of faith? How did it turn out?” – were personal and revealing.

This spring season is rich with stories of God’s saving power.  During the Easter Vigil, Christians read about Creation, Abraham’s Sacrifice of Isaac, Israel’s Deliverance at the Red Sea (or Sea of Reeds), and the Valley of the Dry Bones. These stories resonate with Jews and Muslims as well, allowing us to see G-d’s grace and salvation.

Our Muslim friends just celebrated Eid al-Fitr, the holiday of breaking the Ramadan fast. There is joy and hope in the world.  We just need to look for it.

The Seder plate in the photo belonged to a dear friend, Carol Emerich, of blessed memory.  Carol loved to help lead our Interfaith Seders and brought a spirit of inclusion to our gatherings.  While she was taken from us far too soon, we remember her infectious laugh and her joy at helping others learn about the Passover traditions. This was to her a calling.  At future Interfaith Seders, we will remember Carol as we place the ritual foods on her Seder plate.

People have been asking us how we can do this work of interfaith dialogue in a world so fractured, so full of hate.  This is us, taking a leap of faith like Nachshon, that G-d will be with us in these gatherings of people of good will. 

Together we are learning about each other’s traditions, learning that despite our differences in ritual and language, we are all humans, all worthy of dignity and love.  We cannot wait for G-d to act; rather G-d is expecting us to act to spread Shalom. Like our friend Carol, we work to build friendships and spread joy.

We invite you on this journey, building relationships with strangers who become friends, and weaving together a tapestry of those relationships that will hold us all in Shalom, the abundance and wholeness of peace. 

Come build bridges together with us!

Diane Frankle, Co-Founder, Chairman and COO, Building Bridges Together™

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1 Comment

Mark Gilford
Mark Gilford
Apr 16

A beautiful and wise essay, Diane. Thank you for the reminders about what building bridges is and can be. Thank you for the invitation.

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