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Sabbath at the Spectrum Café


If one makes matzo for Passover, an 18-minute window opens. The person (or machine) that prepares it has only 1,080 seconds from the time that the flour and water are mixed together until the time that the matzo is removed from the oven, before the entire batch must be thrown away—symbolic sin, in the form of fermentation, has crept into the dough.

The amount of “sin” only increases as the hours tick by. “Within 24 hours, I can have a sourdough starter,” says Joan Rusche, a California-based assistant in a health care system. At most other times, the yeast-containing mixture would be welcome; Rusche is a baker of six-strand challah (three strands is considered standard), and enjoys putting her skills to the test. But strictly adhering to Passover preparation requires that one remove any leavening-containing substance in the house—from baking soda to meat analogs—representing the cleansing of sin from one’s life.

“It’s incredibly revealing about how much [leavening] we actually use,” muses Rusche.

Rusche and her husband Robert (Bob) are Adventists who celebrated their first Passover in a Jewish community, which they discovered after attending a Yom Kippur service. Discreetly sitting in the back pew of the synagogue, the couple listened to song after song, and Rusche wept. “I felt like I was coming home. The feeling was more than just tying Christ’s experience to Adventism. It was more like all of the ceremonial laws of the Old Testament were linked to us. … It gave me a new appreciation for the Sabbath.” From that moment, the Rusches looked forward to Friday evenings at the synagogue—afterwards they attend a Sabbath service on Friday evening—and Sabbath worship at their church. Rusche ticks off the services they attended. “Hanukah, Purim, Passover … we celebrated every Jewish event.”

But as Christians, Passover holds a unique significance for them. In many of the rituals and foods, Rusche finds Christianity—and Jesus—represented.* Rusche sees Jesus particularly present in the matzo. “If you look at a piece of matzo, it’s scored and pierced. When we read about Jesus in Isaiah, he was wounded for our transgressions; the piercings in the matzo are symbolic of the his pierced hands and feet” The stripes running down matzo are also symbolic, representing the beatings (stripes) that Christ received.

The matzo used in the service consists of three pieces which are placed in a special bag, and to Rusche represent the Godhead. The middle piece of matzo—the Son—is taken out, broken in half, and half is hidden for the children to find later. But the hidden half is not “resurrected,” says Rusche, until after the third glass of wine in the ceremony, the Kos Shlishi.

“It’s interesting as a Christian to be part of the Passover service and feel the symbols popping out,” reflects Rusche.

This Sabbath, the couple are leading out in their church’s first-ever Passover demonstration. “When Adventists can get together to celebrate a Passover Seder, it teaches them about what Christ did for us, and gives us a greater appreciation for it,” says Rusche.

Sabbath lunch, relative to the three- to four-hour-long Passover Seder, is short. But Rusche notes that food brings people together no matter what the event, and replies that Passover’s emphasis on family is more similar to a Sabbath potluck. “[Potlucks] bring the church together. It’s easy to sit beside each other on the same pew, and yet not talk. At potluck, we share a meal and we share conversation; we get to learn about each other … we become friends,” reflects Rusche. “We often say that our church is our family. Being able to sit down with our church family helps us get to know that family, so we treat each other like family.”

The foods of Passover, then, are a potluck in several ways—enabling bonding within a community as well as among communities. “The most important thing is … to build a bridge between us and our Jewish friends,” says Rusche. “Any time we can step into their world, they are more apt to listen to us,” she adds. Jewish traditions, such as Passover, “are something we can share with them.”

*For a brief outline of the Passover Seder ceremony, read here.


Eggplant Matzo Lasagna

Active prep time: 1 h
Cooking time (includes prep): 2 h
Serves: 6


1 tablespoon olive oil
3 cups sliced mushrooms
3 garlic cloves, crushed
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
¼ teaspoon black pepper
1 (28-ounce) can marinara sauce (Rusche uses Classico Tomato-Basil Marinara Spaghetti Sauce)
1 large eggplant, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch slices (about 1 1/4 pounds)
Extra virgin olive oil cooking spray
6 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese, divided
1 (15-ounce) container ricotta cheese
3 slices American matzo


1. Heat oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and garlic; sauté 5 minutes. Stir in parsley, basil, oregano, peppers, and marinara sauce. Partially cover, reduce heat to medium-low; simmer 30 minutes. Remove from heat.

2. Arrange the eggplant slices in a single layer on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Bake at 400° for 30 minutes, turning the slices over after 15 minutes. Remove from baking sheet, and let cool. Cut the eggplant slices into 1/2-inch pieces, and set aside.

3. Combine ¼ cup Parmesan cheese and ricotta cheese; stir well, and set aside.

4. Spread ½ cup marinara mixture in the bottom of an 11 x 7-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Arrange 1 ½ slices matzo over tomato mixture, and top matzo with half of ricotta cheese mixture, half of eggplant, and half of tomato mixture. Repeat the layers, ending with the tomato mixture. Sprinkle with remaining 2 tablespoons of Parmesan cheese.

 5. Cover and bake at 350° for 45 minutes. Uncover and bake an additional 15 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.


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