Passover traditions draw interest from LDS audience

Published: Tuesday, April 8 2008 9:28 p.m. MDT

PROVO — For some 3,300 years, Jews have been observing Passover, commemorating when the angel of death passed over the Hebrew families, sparing their eldest child, prior to the Israelite exodus from Egypt.For 35 years, Brigham Young University professor of ancient scripture Victor Ludlow has re-enacted the symbol-packed Passover observance, teaching how it has evolved over the centuries and how it relates to Christianity and the Book of Mormon. The re-enactments are performed with a profound sense of appreciation and respect for Jewish tradition.He began holding the service just for students, but as its reputation grew, so did attendance.Ludlow has put on hundreds of traditional Passover Seder (or orderly) celebrations throughout the western United States and in Hawaii, teaching the 14 elements of the service. He averages between 15 to 20 services a year.This spring, he scheduled four at BYU and several others around Utah County. Tickets went on sale in February and within a month the BYU events were sold out. The Jewish Passover is April 20.Ludlow also has a service scheduled in Kansas next week and another in Rexburg, Idaho, in July.Passover is also celebrated among Samaritans and Eastern churches but not in Christian religions. So for many of the estimated 160 in attendance at last week's service at BYU, the event was a new experience. Many were BYU students, but attendees ranged in age from their teens to their 70s.All the trappings of a Seder service were there: the Seder plate, a roasted shankbone, a roasted egg, bitter herbs or maror, a food item called a haroset, parsley and three pieces of matzah, or unleavened bread. All are representative of the Israelite experience under the harsh hand of the Egyptians before the Exodus and their hope for the future.The service also included four cups of grape juice — which Ludlow described as "new wine," or more simply, "Welch's." He also included the Cup of Elijah, waiting for the return of that ancient prophet who precedes the coming of the Messiah in Jewish tradition.Another item is the afikomen, the middle of the three matzahs, which is quietly kept from the person named patriarch at each table. Near the end of the service, the patriarch must negotiate to redeem or get the piece of unleavened bread back from the person who secretly ends up with it.Ludlow took the attendees through each of the 14 steps, which included a dinner near the end. He cautioned that the most memorable step would be eating the bitter herbs, in this instance a teaspoon of strong horse radish.Ludlow called last week's concoction a "10," but added, "we've had worse.""I ate it all," student Joey Stanley of St. Louis said. "I didn't want to cheat myself."The three food items the Hebrews ate when they began celebrating Passover were lamb, unleavened bread and bitter herbs. Over the years other foods and traditions have been added, Ludlow said."These are the same 14 steps during the second temple period (or the time of Christ)," Ludlow said.The Romans destroyed that temple in 70 AD. The third temple in Jerusalem, which the Jews hope for, has yet to be built, Ludlow said.Christ's Last Supper was a Passover event, except he used the occasion to institute the sacrament or communion, instructing His followers that the bread represented His body and the wine His blood, symbols to remember Him and His redemption from death, both physical and spiritual."Christendom still does this, whether it's a wafer or a piece of bread," Ludlow said.

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