COEUR d’ALENE — For thousands of years, the Biblical story of the Passover and Israel’s exodus from Egypt has been recalled at this time of year.
For Jews, Christians, and Muslims alike, the story holds meaning. Some local residents will gather for Passover Seder meals later this week, which recall Israel’s hasty escape from Egypt thanks to divine justice and mercy. Their Seder meals will share common themes but look at the Passover from different angles.
One such Seder meal is being organized in Coeur d’Alene by “Roving Rabbis” Laibel Shemtov and Levi Gourarie. The 18- and 20-year-old rabbinical college students grew up in the Detroit area but are “junior rabbis” with the Chabad Lubavitch sect based in Crown Heights, N.Y., with a regional office in Boise. Passover is a celebration of freedom, Shemtov said.
“Every single day you have to look at it as if you just went out of Egypt,” he said.
Gourarie said Passover is not only about freedom from oppression, but also about the freedom to serve God. According to Chabad’s foremost rabbi, Passover is an ongoing experience that will not end until the Messiah comes, explained Gourarie.
While not totally exclusive of Gentiles, Gourarie said the goal of the Chabad Seder event is to reach local Jewish souls. Jewish heritage runs from maternal ancestry, the rabbis said. Laibel added, “If this reaches one person it’s all worth it.”
Beth Shalom Messianic Fellowship in Post Falls will welcome Jews and Gentiles to a community Seder this Saturday. The event will retell the Passover story and show how it relates to Israel’s history, the life of Jesus Christ, and one’s own history.
“We go through our own personal Passover from slavery to sin to covenant with God,” said Messianic Pastor John Popp. Messianic Rabbi Bruce Booker of Beth Yeshua Messianic Congregation added that Jesus, known in Hebrew as Yeshua, was the Passover lamb who would take away the sins of the world, as John the Baptist predicted.
“He was the Passover lamb and was killed on the exact day that the Passover lambs were killed in the Temple,” Booker said.
Hayden resident Dr. Norman Leffler was brought up in a Conservative synagogue and today leans toward the Reform wing of Judaism. The retired urologist and 21-year resident doesn’t actively practice Judaism, but said for him, Passover and other Jewish holidays are still important historical and cultural celebrations. The traditional foods, history, music, and holidays of his childhood are what he identifies with as a Jew, he explained.
“As far as Judaism, it’s what you individually make of it,” he said.
The intelligent and inquisitive 89-year-old Leffler is familiar with various religious traditions within and without Judaism. The three children of his first marriage with his Jewish ex-wife have run the gamut of religious identity from Orthodox Judaism, to Christianity, to intermarriage with a Buddhist, he said.
Leffler estimated that most of the approximately 50 Jews in the Coeur d’Alene area are Reform or Conservative, with Orthodox Jews being hard to come by here. Leffler himself travels to Spokane occasionally to connect with his Jewish roots. “We’re sort of isolated here,” he said of North Idaho.
Chabad’s Seder meal takes place Friday at 6:30 p.m. at the La Quinta Inn located at 333 W. Ironwood Drive in Coeur d’Alene. Space is limited. Reservations are required via 770-503-5225 or email@example.com.
Beth Shalom’s Seder takes place Saturday at 5 p.m. at Ross Point Retreat Center located at 820 S. Ross Point Road in Post Falls. For more information, call 208-651-8510 or go to www.bethshalomcda.net.