Different religions, but one belief that God will redeem His people

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By Nancy Kennedy

I can honestly say it was the best gefilte fish I ever ate, mainly because I’d never eaten any before.

“Gefilte” sounds tastier than “ground up raw fish mixed with eggs, onions and matzoh meal then stuffed into the skin of a de-boned fish and poached.”

I ate it as part of a Passover Seder as a guest of Congregation Beth Sholom Jewish Synagogue in Beverly Hills, Fla.

Besides gefilte fish with purple horseradish on top, I ate parsley dipped in salt water, washed my hands symbolically several times, drank four cups of wine and sang in Hebrew.

As a religion writer, I’ve attended Jewish services before, but this was my first Passover Seder. My hosts, Lloyd and Joan Leshin, told me that Jews everywhere around the world would be doing the exact same things that we were doing, just as Jews had done for thousands of years before and will do for thousands of years in the future unless or until Messiah comes.

Passover commemorates the time when the Israelites were slaves in Egypt, and when Pharaoh refused to let them leave God sent 10 plagues.

The 10th plague was the death of every firstborn male, and the only way to escape the angel of death was to sacrifice an unblemished lamb and take its blood and smear it over the doorpost of the house. When the angel saw the blood, he passed over that house and the firstborn sons were spared.

The various elements of the Passover Seder represent the different significant parts of the story of how God freed his people from slavery. For example, the roasted shank bone symbolizes the lamb that was slain. The salt water and the bitter herbs speak of the tears and suffering of the Israelites’ slavery.

The matzoh, or unleavened bread, is a reminder that the Israelites didn’t have time to bake bread with yeast so they had to make cracker-like flat bread. Today, Jews grind up the matzoh to use in their Passover cooking to make everything from dumplings to chocolate cake.

During one part on the Passover Seder, three matzohs are on a plate covered with a napkin. The middle one, called the afikomen, which symbolizes the Pesach, or Passover lamb, is removed, broken and wrapped in another napkin and hidden.

The woman sitting next to me said sometimes parents hide the afikomen and later kids search for it and whoever finds it gets a prize.

Later in the Seder when the afikomen is “found,” the broken piece is distributed to everyone at the table. Next, everyone drinks a cup of wine.

Because I’m a Christian, I view things through the prism of Christianity. It’s much like how women see things through a female prism, only children through an only-child prism, Jews through a Jewish prism.

Therefore, as a Christian I couldn’t help seeing Jesus in the Passover Seder. I don’t say this to offend my Jewish friends, just to explain my experience.

For example, the night of the Seder was also Maundy Thursday, the day Christians commemorate Christ’s last supper, which was a Passover Seder. Jesus might not have eaten gefilte fish, but he would’ve dipped the parsley in salt water and ate bitter herbs.

The gospels record him taking the unleavened bread and breaking it, saying “This is my body, broken for you.” Likewise, he took the cup of wine and said, “This is my blood, shed for you.”

That’s what I thought of during that part of the Seder. If I had been at my church, I would’ve been eating the bread and drinking the wine during communion.

Through the prism of Christianity, the lamb that was slain for the Israelites thousands of years ago was a foreshadow of Jesus, whom Christians call the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.

The Seder ended with a song in Hebrew: “Our Seder now has ended with its history-laden rites. We have journeyed from Mitzrayim (Israel) on this storied night of nights. We bore witness, we remembered our covenant with You. So we pray that You redeem us as You pledged Your word to do.”

If there’s one thing Christians and Jews can agree on it’s this: We believe that God has pledged to redeem his people, and what he pledges, he will fulfill.

Nancy Kennedy is the author of “Move Over, Victoria - I Know the Real Secret,” “Girl on a Swing,” and her latest book, “Lipstick Grace.” She can be reached at 352-564-2927, Monday through Thursday, or via e-mail at nkennedy@chronicleonline.com.