Thursday, October 9, 2014

Defending the Christian observance of Jewish feast days

Our 2014 mini sukkah built with craft sticks, felt and the leaves of an evergreen tree

Interior of our mini family sukkah, awaiting the handmade furniture

October 8, 2014 marks the beginning of the current season of Sukkot or Feast of Tabernacles where some Jews that observed the mitzvah and slept in a booth and might have seen the lunar eclipse. For me, while I made a mini sukkah (see above) with my girls, I spent the night looking at the lovely moon through my window. Wrapped in the comfort of my warm blanket, I did not envy anyone who had to sleep outdoors (especially in the Ontario, Canada) on that night. However, I do envy the spiritual lessons and blessings that those who did would be learning and receiving.

I recently read the preface of a paper by Tom Roberts that discusses that Christians can "glean much from every religious tradition". He further went on to state that "truth is not the property of any one organization or creed". Robert continues to suggest that:
Christianity in general owes the Jewish people a great debt for giving us the Hebrew Bible as well as the Jewish Messiah which led into the Hebrews roots of early Christianity. While much was wrong with these traditions that Our Lord encountered, they still preserved the revelation of God so the truths in scripture could be found by those who are guided by the Holy Spirit.
While I do not know if I fully agree with all of Robert's statements, they definitely resonate with me. I believe that Christianity today is a religion that is formed from an amalgamation of Jewish and pagan traditions. However, my stance as a Judeo-Christian believer is that the pagan traditions of Christianity should be given up and that we should return to our more Jewish traditions. However, this idea has been found problematic and even offensive to Jews.

I still remember when a Jewish rabbi unfriended me from Facebook because I announced my celebration of a "Christian Passover". He found it offensive and I could not understand why. Well, it was not until the 2014 Passover season when I discovered this article by Rebecca Cynamon-Murphy, a wife of a Jew, but also a Christian that made these remarks which made it more clear why a Christian Passover is offensive:

When people learn that, as a lifelong and practicing Christian, I am married to a Jewish man and that we practice both religions in our house, I often become the safe person to ask about Judaism. I like this advocate role for the opportunity it gives me to gently encourage folks to look at ways in which their privilege as a member of a majority population can sometimes cause them to cause offense.
Several times, I have encountered folks who wanted to host their own Passover seders. Their logic is that since Jesus was celebrating Pesach during the week when he was arrested, tried, executed and resurrected, in a desire to be more Christ-like, they too should celebrate the holiday. 
Christians may desire to become more Christ-like or to develop deeper understanding of Christian roots, but hosting a Jewish Passover outside of the context of Jewish relationships does more harm than good. Christians celebrating their own Passover do unwitting harm to the Jewish people because they ignore centuries of persecution of Jews—and they do harm to themselves by ignoring their real-life Jewish neighbors, treating them as relics rather than people.

That article better helped me to understand why my rabbi [former] friend found it offensive. Cynamon-Murphy (2014) raises the sensitive issue of cultural appropriation. I appreciated this point as I can understand how someone from another culture appropriating something from another person's culture can be deemed offensive.

But it brings me to the reflection that Christianity has nothing much that is original. The majority of our traditions and teachings were appropriated from either Jewish or pagan origins (Greek or Roman). In fact, Christianity tends to appropriate national cultural heritage into their traditions. We use Jewish texts and add to it. We then interpret those texts using Greek and Roman philosophies and interpretative methods. Or we appropriate pagan stories and substitute the name of the pagan characters with Christian ones.

Hence, as I reflect, I have the same Bible as the Jews, except with the New Testament additions. Am I therefore not free to adopt any traditions that help me better appreciate the Bible and its context? Christianity does not have any [non-pagan] family traditions that help children to relive the stories of scriptures. As a friend of mine once said:

Judaism puts a lot more stock in the traditions of the fathers than Christians do. They tend to follow what they have inherited. Christians form new traditions with every new group; and they aren't as ingrained, partially because they are often learnt through conversion, not through parent-child relations.

I believe that the Haggaddah and other Jewish traditions help me to fulfill the Deut. 6:6-9 verse (and even Psalm 78:3-8) that tells me to talk about God's commandments and deeds to my children. Of course I could create my own, but it is so much easier to borrow best practices and reinvent them to meet personalized needs. Isn't preferable to adopt and appropriate the traditions from the people who God gave his oracles (Romans 3:2) rather than from those who Satan deceived? 

Edited for some corrections regarding the timing of the lunar eclipse and other minor wordings.


Cynamon-Murphy, R. (2014, Apr. 11). Why Christians should not host their own Passover Seders. Religion Dispatches. Retrieved from

Roberts, T. [n.d.]. The Law, Sabbath and redemption. Retrieved from