This past week, Christians began the six-week vigil called Lent. Many Christians commence this introspective time with the putting on of ashes to be reminded, they came from dust and to dust they shall return.
Lent is much like the ten-day period between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. It is a time to reflect on how you have lived your life during the previous year, for what and from whom you need to seek forgiveness. Among Jews there is a tradition to not seek God’s forgiveness until you have asked forgiveness of anyone you have hurt during the past year. So, the Lenten weeks are similar, at least in emphasis, to the Jewish holy days.
But there are differences. First and foremost, Jews do not put ashes on their foreheads. Remembering the ashes of the Holocaust gives Jews a sufficient reminder about the reality of death and none more so than the ashes.
For some Christians, the cross is the culmination of lent. They think the suffering and death of Jesus is the highlight. But that is not so. The killing of Jesus is an absurdity and a scandal. No amount of theological glorification can make the cross beautiful or meaningful. For Christians, Lent is the season that leads to Easter, that moment when God declares, life not death, will have the last word.
As for Jews, salvation never comes through death.
For Jews, so called “salvation”, being saved from the power of sin, death and evil can only happen when we do everything we can to resist the power of sin, death and evil. Whatever God and his messiahs are doing, we shall leave to them.