LETTERS: Easter myths of Passover

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The Independent Online
Sir: Keith Botsford's gargantuan buffet of history, myth, tradition, eggs, lambs and other Easter fare ("Time to savour the feast of spring", 5 April) included a few rather indigestible morsels.

"As the Father sacrificed his son, the son became the pure, innocent Lamb of God," proclaims Botsford, "which accounts for the prime place given to lamb on Easter Day."

Well, yes and no. The "prime place given to lamb" at Easter is none other than the place it occupied for Jesus and the disciples when they celebrated Passover. In those days, at Passover each household made the journey to the Temple in Jerusalem, sacrificed a lamb, roasted it and ate it. Since the destruction of the Temple, the Passover lamb is remembered simply as a bone on the Seder plate, to which Botsford makes the fleeting and inaccurate reference. The plate, adorned with the bone and five other symbols of Temple times, takes pride of place on the festive dinner table in Jewish homes on "Seder night", the start of the Passover.

The symbolic egg of Easter, which has become chocolate in modern times, was another Passover sacrifice. A burnt egg lies beside the bone on the Seder plate, and the festive Seder meal - widely assumed to have been the Last Supper of Jesus and his disciples - starts with an egg in salt water. Throughout Passover, incidentally, owing to the lack of bread or leaven, egg dishes are immensely popular.

Keith Botsford mistakenly mentions a "plaited loaf made with egg at Seder, the beginning of Passover." Absolutely not. Passover happens to be the only time of year when hallah - the plaited loaf made with egg - is not eaten: for this is the Festival of Matzah, unleavened bread.

Ignorance about Jews led to the routine Passion Week accusation that Jews use Christian blood for their Passover meal. These accusations made Easter the most dangerous time of year for Jews throughout the Christian world. The word "Easter" still fills many Jews with fear.

Andrew Sanger

London NW2