The MGH Chapel played host to a special ceremony this week in advance of the upcoming Passover holiday.

“For centuries Jews and Christians have had a mixed history,” says Rabbi Ben Lanckton, of MGH Chaplaincy. “Especially in the spring– around Easter and Passover– some Christian leaders gave sermons critical of Jews, sometimes even implicating them in the death of Jesus. But many Jewish and Christian communities lived together in harmony.”

Lanckton says one example of this harmony is mechirat chametz, the sale of the leaven – prohibited to be eaten or owned by Jews during Passover – from the rabbi of the Jewish community to a leader of the non-Jewish community. Having eaten or donated as much chametz as they can before the holiday, the Jews needed a device to transfer ownership during the holiday. The non-Jewish leader, Lanckton says, would buy the chametz, with a very small down payment, to own it over Passover. “Then, in good will, the leader would intentionally fail to complete the payment one hour after Passover ends, so the chametz reverts to its original owners,” he says. “This springtime cooperation, now the norm in hundreds of communities over the world, demonstrates the harmony and understanding between Jews and Christians.”

During the March 28 ceremony, Lanckton sold the chametz to Susan Doyle, of MGH Nutrition and Food Services, while being observed by two witnesses – Allan Goldstein, MD, surgeon-in-chief of MassGeneral Hospital for Children, and Edwin Andrews, administrative director of the Transitional Clinical Research Center.  The MGH will celebrate Passover with a special meal for all patients on April 10, the first night of Passover.  In addition, throughout Passover – which lasts until twilight on April 18 – special kosher Passover meals will be available to patients who request them. 

“This is just one way that our Nutrition Services make special efforts to meet the unique cultural and religious needs of our patient population,” says Lanckton.

Read more articles from the 03/31/17 Hotline issue.