There is a common river running through the holidays Christians and Jews celebrate this week. In many ways, the Jewish festival of Passover, which began at sundown Monday, and the Christian celebration of Easter, which is this weekend, are similar, despite the differences and distinctions between their believers.
Those differences of belief center on the divinity of Christ. While that is the base of Christianity, the Jewish religion generally recognizes Christ as a philosopher; a good man, not a God. And from those differences the streams of the two religious beliefs seem to part. Until today, many would consider them distinct and unrelated, if not hostile to one another.
Nothing could be further from the truth; those two major religious streams -- and their tributaries -- flow from the same river and presumably end in the same sea.
Christ was a Jew. The philosophical tenets of Christianity are found in the Old Testament, so in that sense Christianity can be considered an offshoot of Judaism. The major religious difference -- the divinity of Christ -- is dominant in our immediate perceptions, but there is deeper comfort in the commonality.
Christians and Jews are brothers and sisters.
One of the best expressions of the link is found in the similarities of the two festivals being celebrated. For Christians, this period marks the suffering, death and resurrection of Christ. Christ's agony and sacrifice were made for the salvation of his followers.
They believe his death is the key to the door of eternal life for mankind -- freedom from death as an ending; freedom from the bonds of weakness and guilt through the love of Christ. The mourning of Good Friday gives way to the joy of Easter Sunday.
For Jews, the period marks the "passing over" of the houses of the faithful by the Angel of Death and the subsequent escape from bondage in Egypt. During this time of introspection, the story of the flight from Egypt is told through the seder, at which foods are eaten symbolizing the bitterness of slavery, escape and the joy of freedom.
Christians use Good Friday and Easter as a renewal of faith; Jews use Passover to remember a time of slavery and the exodus from it.
This, together, forms the common river.
To all, this week, we wish freedom and peace.