Cokie Roberts Shares Personal Traditions From Her Interfaith Marriage


There's so much in the Seder service that should seem familiar to someone raised in the Judeo-Christian tradition that there's no reason for first-timers to feel uncomfortable. Anyone who's been taught Bible stories as a child, much less reconsidered them as an adult, knows what Passover is about. Baby Moses in the bulrushes is one of the most common pictures decorating Sunday school classrooms, serving as a prelude to the dramatic story of the Plagues, the Exodus from Egypt, the parting of the Red Sea, and the Jewish flight to freedom. Watching the "Red Sea" part is one of the regular attractions at the Universal City theme park in California, so people who didn't learn the story in the Bible could learn it from the movies. Beyond that, Christian teaching tells us of Jesus's observance of Passover—first as a boy with his family and then as a man with his disciples, who continued to commemorate the festival in their years establishing the church.

In fact, the Passover celebration is one of the few stories told about Jesus as a child, so I remember being fascinated with it as a little girl. "Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of Passover," Luke's gospel tells us, but when he was twelve years old, "when they had fulfilled the days, as they returned, the child Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem; and Joseph and his mother knew not of it." I couldn't get over that. How could he stay behind without his mother knowing about it? I remember the priests trying to explain that people traveled in large family groups and that his parents probably assumed he was with cousins and other adults. It all sounded daring and fun. But then Mary and Joseph became frantic, looking for Jesus for three days until "they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions. And all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers." We are supposed to draw from the story the lesson that Jesus was learned and ready to discuss theology, that he "must be about my Father's business." But I just thought what trouble I would've gotten into if I had pulled anything like that. It also upset me on Mary's behalf—how could he worry his mother so? So it was a story I thought about a lot, and it was a story that started with the Holy Family's annual celebration of Passover.

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