For our Jewish brothers and sisters, Passover begins at sundown today, and ends the evening of April 4. Tomorrow, Christians celebrate Palm Sunday, the day that Jesus entered Jerusalem for the Feast of Passover. Our Holy Week, particularly the Triduum, ends also on the evening of April 4, Easter Sunday. Rarely does Passover and Holy Week coincide so perfectly.
Below is a reflection by my good friend Rachel Gurwitz concerning what her Passover will look like this year:
"This Passover marks an incredible and sobering milestone. This is the first holiday that I have celebrated twice during this pandemic. I could not imagine a year ago that our family would not be returning to our annual gathering at Cousin Phyllis’ house in 2021. Surely me making a seder happen at home for our immediate family was a one-time deal? I have spent most of the last 31 years celebrating with my husband Jonathan’s extended family. Truth be told I attended even before we married. As with so many things, I appreciate now what a luxury that has been!
"Oh of course I always prepared a few customary foods like my matzo ball soup - but never before have I needed to take a mental picture walk through the ceremony and anticipate all the items that need to be included on the seder table. Like any good student I dutifully “googled” recipes and suggestions and in so doing I came across something I had only seen a few times before. I read about idea of adding a Miriam’s cup to flank the Elijah’s cup that was so familiar to me.
"The cup symbolizes Miriam’s well. Her well supplied the Israelites with water for the 40 years that they wandered in the desert after they fled from slavery in Egypt. A Miriam’s cup can be any type of cup or bowl and it should be filled with clear water. In some homes each person at the table pours a bit of their own water into the cup to fill it up. Placing this cup on our table serves as a reminder of the importance of the role that women played in biblical times but particularly in the Passover story.
"In the Haggadah which contains the service read during the Seder meal, Jocheved, Miriam, Shifra, Puah and Pharaoh’s daughter never even appear yet we know the important roles that they played. In a time honored tradition is there room for this new(ish) idea? I have decided that for me and my family, YES. I look forward to the addition of this ritual item to a celebration that is already so rich in symbolism and spirituality. Chag Pesach Sameach – Happy Passover!"
In my community, our depiction of the Last Supper (which was Jesus' Passover meal) is by artist Bohdan Piasecki; you can see, in his mind, women were at this Passover meal.
Most certainly they were, and most likely like my friend Rachel, they prepared the meal.
After reading Rachel's reflection, I like to imagine that one of the cups on the table is Miriam's cup. May this painting, and Miriam's cup, serve for us as a reminder (to paraphrase Rachel) of the importance of the role that women played in biblical times but particularly in Jesus' life.
Happy Passover and Blessed Triduum. May we all celebrate well.
(Postcards and prints of Piasecki's "Last Supper" can be ordered online at: http://wearechurchireland.ie/last-supper)