The God Squad: Happy Passover from Father Tom

Rabbi Marc Gellman, Tribune Content Agency on

When Father Tom was alive we had a custom where I would offer Easter greetings from a rabbi and Tommy would offer Passover greetings from a priest. Now that this is no longer possible, I must rely on my memories of Tom’s Passover commentaries over the years.

This year, I remember as if he was still with us Tom’s reflections on Egypt that he shared with me one Passover after he attended a seder at my home with my family – a family that over time absolutely included him:

“Marc, every year when I sit in your home and share the Passover seder meal with you and your family, I try to pick one verse from the story of the Exodus from Egypt in the Haggdah, which is the book of stories that is the script for the evening. I then use that verse as a foundation for my spiritual meditations in the year ahead.

This year, I was caught by the verse in Exodus 13:8, “And you shall tell your child in that day, saying, 'This is done because of what the LORD did for me when I came up from Egypt.” I am caught up in this verse totally. It means that the Exodus was not just an historic event that happened to people who are long gone. Rather, it means that the Exodus is a deeply personal event for every Jewish person in every age. It is not a memory, it is an immediate spiritual experience.

So, Marc, when I think of that verse as a Christian I think that it is just like the Last Supper of Jesus. The bread of the Passover seder is, for us, now the body of Christ and the wine is his blood. This makes the Mass not a memorial of the crucifixion and resurrection but actually a reenactment – just like the seder meal is a reenactment of the going out from Egypt.

I think the place all Christians and Jews can meet is the experience of Egyptian slavery. Sin is slavery. Sin is slavery to our worst instincts and leaving Egypt means leaving behind a state of sin and servitude. That is a powerful message and even though it is totally Jewish, it also touches on the Christian story. Jesus is our way out of Egypt and out of sin.

I hope our Jewish readers can take time this Passover and ask themselves what it means to them to leave Egypt this year. In what way are they still enslaved to false beliefs that do not bring them spiritual flourishing but rather continued spiritual despair.”

When Tommy told me this, I asked him, “Did I teach you this?”


He answered me, “No. God taught me this, but God taught me this by being with you.” The truth of how we loved each other was deep and complicated. One day Tommy gave me a piece of paper for my birthday and on it were these words by Mother Teresa,

You will teach them to fly, but they will not fly your flight. You will teach them to dream, but they will not dream your dream. You will teach them to live, but they will not live your life. Nevertheless, in every flight, in every life, in every dream, the print of the way you taught them will remain.

The print of what Tom Hartman taught me is in my life and the print of what I taught him was in his. That is what it meant to be best friends. That is what it meant to us to leave Egypt together.

So those are my remembrances of what Passover meant to Father Tom. I hope that in his name we can all leave Egypt together and come through the desert of suffering and liberation to a promised land where we can embrace the better angels of our nature.

Also, let me implore you to please take some time to volunteer your time to a soup kitchen or some other worthy charity that is seeking to mend our broken world. Serving others is the best way I know to serve your own soul. And let me also urge you to offer up a prayer for peace in Israel and Gaza and Ukraine and healing to all the victims. The scars of war have marked us and it is time to heal.

(Send ALL QUESTIONS AND COMMENTS to The God Squad via email at Rabbi Gellman is the author of several books, including “Religion for Dummies,” co-written with Fr. Tom Hartman. Also, the new God Squad podcast is now available.)

©2024 The God Squad. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.





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