Friday, March 22, 2013

An ancient tradition observed

INTERFAITH COOPERATION: Kearns, at left, and Lanckton

The MGH Chaplaincy hosted a special ceremony March 21 in the MGH Chapel to observe Passover, which begins March 25 and ends April 2, and commemorates the emancipation of the ancient Hebrews from enslavement in ancient Egypt.

“During Passover, any form of chametz – or leavened food product – is forbidden for Jews to eat or even to own, in memory of the haste in which the Jews left Egypt, without waiting for their bread to rise,” said Rabbi Ben Lanckton. “Jews avoid owning chametz by eating it up or giving it away to the poor. If they own too much of a particular food to do either of these, they can sell it, completely but temporarily.”

For the mechirat chametz ceremony – or the sale of the chametz – the rabbi of the Jewish community sells each Jewish household’s chametz to a non-Jew on behalf of the community. The rabbi then meets with the non-Jewish buyer and two Jewish witnesses. The buyer makes a down payment for all of the community’s chametz – but the chametz remains in each Jewish owner’s home. At any given time during Passover, the non-Jewish buyer may come to the Jewish owner’s home and take the chametz. Once Passover has ended, the buyer sells the chametz back to the owners, though the buyer is under no obligation to do so, and the Rabbi pays the buyer $1 in addition to the down payment, to show the Jewish community’s gratitude for the buyer’s service.

During the MGH ceremony, the Rev. John Kearns served as the non-Jewish buyer of chametz. “This ceremony highlights how mechirat chametz is an excellent example of interfaith cooperation,” Lanckton said. “It shows the Jewish community’s trust in or reliance on the non-Jewish community.”

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