A good friend who is a Mormon invited my wife and me to a Passover Seder to be held at their church. I don't understand why a non-Jewish group would have a Seder, and I am uncomfortable about going. But I also do not want to offend my friend. What should I do?
The Aish Rabbi Replies
Hmmm... These seem to becoming more popular. I also heard that the First Baptist Church in Delray Beach, Florida, has scheduled a Passover celebration for Palm Sunday. The church is inviting Jews from the community to join in the church's Passover Seder, which weaves the Last Supper and Passover together.
Why would they do such a thing? One explanation is that it is a missionary activity. Jews are generally are turned off by Christianity, so missionaries use traditional Jewish devices in order to make Jesus more palatable to Jews.
I'm sure there are different varieties, but I have heard that at such Christian Seders, the table appears quite traditional: Seder plate, matzah and wine. Once the ceremony begins to unfold, however, things take on a decidedly non-Jewish tone. Participants are told that the Seder wine represents the blood of Jesus, and the matzah represents his flesh. The three matzot represent the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.
Why is the matzah perforated? they ask. Because Jesus' body was pierced when he was crucified. Why is the matzah wrapped in a white cloth? Because Jesus was wrapped in a white burial shroud. Why is the middle matzah hidden? Because Jesus was hidden away in the tomb following his crucifixion. Why is the matzah brought back at the end of the meal? Because Jesus will return in the Second Coming at the End of Days. Etc., etc., etc.
It is frightening to see Christians usurp Jewish traditions in what is either an overt or covert effort to convert Jews. The Mormon faith is particularly known to have a strong bent toward missionizing. This is not to say that your friends have any bad intentions. They are probably just encouraged by the pastor to bring friends, and felt that it would be nice to invite you also.
The real issue here is that Jews need to learn more about their Jewish heritage. Too many feel burned out after the Bar/Bat mitzvah grind, and as adults never really got the chance to experience what Judaism is truly about.
Fortunately, many communities run authentic Passover Seders - sponsored by Aish, the Jewish Federation or one of the other organizations. Check your local Jewish newspaper for info.
As for your friends, you can politely explain that Passover, as it says in the Torah, is a time to be dedicated to one's family.