It happens every year, a remarkable convergence of Jewish and Christian calendars: Pesach and Shavuot on the Jewish side, and Easter and Pentecost on the Christian side. The resemblance they manifest in both timing and meaning attest to the deep structural affinity between Judaism and Christianity.
Easter is the one Christian festival that has no fixed date on the calendar. It falls each year on the first Sunday after the full moon after the vernal equinox. Since Pesach is also a spring festival that falls on the 15th of Nissan, which is always a full moon, Pesach and Easter often overlap. The convergence in time amplifies the similarity in meaning as both holidays deliver a message of redemption and salvation.
Exactly 50 days after the celebration of Easter, Christians assemble again to observe the festival of Pentecost (Greek for 50th), which recalls the moment when the Holy Spirit graced Jesus’ apostles. The festival constitutes an astounding parallel to Shavuot, which we will celebrate soon, precisely 50 days after the second day of Pesach, when we begin to count the Omer for a period of seven complete weeks as the Hebrew name Shavuot simply means weeks.
Shavuot in the Torah terminates the barley harvest begun at Pesach and thus brings closure to Pesach. It was the Rabbis in the first centuries of the millennium that affixed the revelation of Mount Sinai, even as they determined its final date to be the sixth of Sivan. Hence both Judaism and Christianity transposed the rebirth of spring from a natural to a historical day. Judaism and Christianity, the Judea-Christian tapestry, may we embrace each other as both religions celebrate rebirth together.
Hoffman is a spiritual leader for the South Shore Jewish Center.