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April 11, 2005

Passover Preparations

As part of my preparations for Pesach this year (Passover to many of you), I've been reading through the Mishnah related to the holiday. The Mishnah is the earliest written codification of the Oral Law, and forms the basis for the Talmud. The Talmud occupies a more central place in Jewish life, with its legal, theological, and philosophical debates, but it would also draw me away from my primary purpose here: focusing on the holiday.

I'm always amazed at how much of our current practice is rooted directly in the Mishnah, written 1900 years ago or so, and practiced for hundreds of years before that. Almost the whole of the Seder, for instance, is laid out in the last chapter. Unlike so much of the prayer service, which succeeds a Temple Service it can't hope to replace, the Seder really is a continuous link back.

I'm sure I've written about this before, but the moon is also a link back. The sun, when it shows up, looks more or less the same every day. The sun is linked to the seasons, but yesterday is proof that the seasonal weather doesn't always provide reliable visual clues to the past. Sure, you might say "the sun rose in that spot on the horizon 2000 years ago," but I suspect that resonates better with most Druids than it does with us.

Judaism uses a lunar calendar, though, which means that the moon looks the same on Seder night as it did on the night of the Exodus. (It's true for every holiday, of course.) When I'm out on a driving trip, I sometime play the "first white man to see this" game, imagining what that might have been like. Looking up at the moon on Seder night is a lot like that.

Posted by joshuasharf at April 11, 2005 07:04 AM | TrackBack

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