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The Transforming Power Of Brotherly Love

Integral Yoga Yantra via Wikipedia

Integral Yoga Yantra via Wikipedia

By Rabbi Allen S. Maller

Stories can be fiction or true. Some stories are true because they accurately describe a unique event that happened a certain time and place. Other stories are events that once happened and have subsequently been dramatized by creative minds or faithful hearts. Archetypical stories that have been retold over the course of thousands of years are true not because they once occurred; but because they continually reoccur in many places and times.

One such archetypical story, transmitted orally in both Arabic and Hebrew for many centuries; and finally written down in the 19th century, in both languages and in several different versions; reveals a truth about the importance of brotherly love that was exemplified in the news media just a few weeks ago. First the individual stories.

A historical Jewish cemetery in St. Louis, USA was vandalized leaving over 100 headstones damaged. In response, two Muslims Linda Sarsour and Tarek El-Messidi, created a crowd-funding campaign in order to raise funds for the Jewish Cemetery. The target was set at $20,000 and it was reached in 5 hours! In that time, 848 people (mainly Muslims) donated over $25,000 and donations tripled overnight after JK Rowling, the Harry Potter author retweeted a Jewish News story on the campaign to her 10 million followers.

The organizers say: “We were inspired by the example of our Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, who stood up to pay respects for a passing Jewish funeral procession. When questioned on why he stood for a Jewish funeral, he responded, “Is it not a human soul?” [Source: Bukhari].

Through this campaign, we hope to send a united message from the Jewish and Muslim communities that there is no place for this type of hate, desecration, and violence in America. We pray that this restores a sense of security and peace to the Jewish-American community who has undoubtedly been shaken by this event.”

The second event took place a few weeks earlier in the small Gulf Coast city of Victoria, Texas, a place with many churches, but just one synagogue, and one mosque built in 2000, that was burned down, about 2 A.M. Saturday January 28, 2017.

Now, the synagogue has become a mosque: because the Jews of Victoria responded to the Mosque desecration, by giving the Muslims a key to their synagogue building, so they could share a place to worship while rebuilding their own Mosque.

“Everyone knows everybody, I know several members of the mosque, and we felt for them,” said Robert Loeb, the president of Bnai Israel, which affiliates with the Jewish Reconstructionist movement.

On Sunday January 29, the Victoria community held an interfaith event in front of the mosque. Through local donations and a GoFundMe page, the mosque raised over $900,000 from 18,000+ people to rebuild the mosque.

These two accounts of brotherly love are modern descendants of the following archetypical fable that illustrates how two holy places can be as closely connected as two lungs, even though they are far apart geographically and exist in different religious worlds. Some say this happened in the generation of Noah others say it was when Abraham was born.

“Two brothers who inherited a ‘valley to hilltop’ farm from their father divided the land in half so that each one could farm his own section. Over time, the older brother married and had four children, while the younger brother was still not married.

One year there was very little rain, and the crop was very meager. This was at the beginning of a long term drought that would turn the whole valley into an arid, treeless, desert where even grain did not grow, and all the springs dried up.

The younger brother lay awake one night praying and thought: “My brother has a wife and four children to feed, and I have no children. He needs more grain than I do; especially now when grain is scarce.”

So that night, the younger brother went to his barn, gathered a large sack of wheat, and left his wheat in his brother’s barn. Then he returned home, feeling pleased with himself.

Earlier that very same night, the older brother was also lying awake praying for rain when he thought: “In my old age, my wife and I will have our grown children to take care of us, as well as grandchildren to enjoy, while my brother may have no children. He should at least sell more grain from his fields now, so he can provide for himself in his old age.

So that night, the older brother also gathered a large sack of wheat, and left it in his brother’s barn, and returned home, feeling pleased with himself.

The next morning, the younger brother, surprised to see the amount of grain in his barn seemed unchanged, said “I did not take as much wheat as I thought. Tonight I will take more.”

That same morning, the older brother, standing in his barn, was thinking the same thoughts.

After night fell, each brother gathered a greater amount of wheat from his barn and in the dark, secretly delivered it to his brother’s barn.

The next morning, the brothers were again puzzled and perplexed. “How can I be mistaken?” each one thought. “There’s the same amount of grain here as there was before. This is impossible! Tonight I will make no mistake—I will take two large sacks.”

The third night, more determined than ever, each brother gathered two large sacks of wheat from his barn, loaded them onto a cart, and slowly pulled his cart toward his brother’s barn. In the moonlight, each brother noticed a figure in the distance.

When the two brothers got closer, each recognized the form of the other and the load he was pulling, and they both realized what had happened!

Without a word, they dropped the ropes of their carts, ran to each other and embraced.”

Only God can make something mundane into something holy; and God thought the brothers’ love and concern for each other made their descendants worthy to rebuild a primordial Holy House in this valley; and later to build a new Holy House on that far hill, where the descendants of one brother would live, and a descendant of the other brother would visit to ascend to heaven.

So God sent Messengers to their descendants to guide them to do this.

Christians and Jews say the hilltop is Jerusalem. Muslims say the valley is Makka. I say they are both right.

God gave humans one heart to love God as individuals, and two lungs for communities to recycle the holy spirit within human beings, among human communities, and between all humans and God.

When all those, both near and far, who revere these two sacred places as a standard, share it in love with everyone else who reveres it, then Abraham’s request for Allah to “make this a land of peace, and provide its people with the produce of the land” (Qur’an 2:126) will be extended throughout the world; and all the children of Adam, Noah and Abraham will live in Holiness, Peace and Prosperity.
 
Rabbi Maller’s web site is: www.rabbimaller.com

 What Donald Wants to Ban: (brothersjuddblog.com)

 Florida airport ‘detained Muhammad Ali’s son, asking: Are you Muslim?’ (telegraph.co.uk)

 Trump’s America: As Welcoming as Ever (americanthinker.com)

 Muhammad Ali’s Son Detained By Immigration Officials At Florida Airport (newsone.com)

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Is Islam Anti-Judaism?

The Children of Israel Crossing the Jordan (il...

The Children of Israel Crossing the Jordan – illustration by Gustave Doré via Wikipedia

By Rabbi Allen S Maller

The Koran is the only book of revelation that includes within itself a theory of prophethood which includes other religions. There have always been (since the days of Adam) people inspired by Allah who urged their society to avoid destruction by turning away from its corrupt and unjust ways and  turning to the One God who created all humans. The Koran mentions 25 prophets by name (most of them known to non-Muslims too) and Muslims believe there were one hundred twenty four thousand others, whose names are now unknown.

Of the 25 mentioned by name in the Koran only five revealed books of sacred scripture, and only Moses, David, Jesus and Muhammad revealed books of sacred scripture that are the bases for three religions that still flourish today.

According to the Koran, every nation in the world receives at least one prophet who speaks to it in its own language. However, one nation, the Children of Israel, has received a great many prophets. The Koran doesn’t explicitly tell us why so many prophets arose within the Children of Israel but a careful reading of the Koran reveals the answer.

This was what I learned from a profound and enlightening essay by Irfan Ahmad Kahn in a book entitled Jewish-Muslim Encounters edited by Charles Selengut (Paragon House 2001). The book is a collection of 11 papers given at a conference in Cordoba, Spain sponsored by the Inter-Religious Federation for World Peace.

Almost all prophets, according to Kahn, are like Hud who was sent to Ad or Salih who was sent to Thamud to warn them of their impending destruction due to their corrupt and immoral ways and to call them to repentance. However, the prophets of the Children of Israel are somewhat different. First, Abraham is the only prophet we know of, whose two sons, Isma’il and Ishaq, are also prophets. Indeed, Abraham’s grandson Ya’qub and great grandson Yusuf are also prophets. Thus starting with Abraham Allah established a family dynasty of prophets.

English: English translation of hebrew version...

Map of the twelve tribes of Israel, before the move of Dan to the North – Wikipedia

With Joseph and his brothers (the tribes) the extended family became the 12 tribes of Israel or as they are usually called the Children of Israel/Ya’qub. The Children of Israel were blessed with many prophets inviting them to stay firm in their faith to God; this is expressed in various places in the Qur’an “When death approached Ya’qub, he said to his sons, ‘Who will (you) worship after I am gone?’ They answered, ‘We will worship your God, the God of our forefathers, Abraham, Ishmael, Issac, the One God. Unto Him we will surrender ourselves.’” (2:132)

Second, when Moses/Musa is sent by Allah he comes not primarily to warn or rebuke the Children of Israel (his own people) but he is sent “to Pharaoh” ( 20:24, 51:38, 73:15 and 79:17), “to Pharaoh and his chiefs” (al-mala) (7:103, 10:75, 11:97, 23:46, and 43:46) “to Pharaoh and his people” (27:12). Musa is sent to Pharaoh to warn him of the destruction that will fall on Egypt if he doesn’t stop setting himself up as a God and doesn’t let the Children of Israel go free. Musa comes to rebuke Pharaoh and to rescue the Children of Israel.

Only when the Jewish nation is free from Egyptian bondage do they receive the Torah from God, by the hand of Moses without any mediation of an angel. This very enlightening essay by Irfan Ahmad Kahn stimulated me as a Reform Rabbi to realize that the evidence from the Qur’an shows that Islam praises the unique place of the Children of Israel among other nations as opposed to the accusations of some who blame the Qur’an as being antagonistic toward Jews.

From Abraham’s descendants comes a religious community based not just on belief but also on family and tribal ties. Converts to Judaism, who usually marry into the Jewish community, are like adopted children. This is why Judaism, although it welcomes converts from any people, has never engaged in a determined large scale missionary enterprise.

The principle that God makes a covenant with a whole people and not just with the faithful believers helps me understand a powerful verse in the Koran. At Sinai, when Allah gives the Jewish People the Torah, He makes a covenant with the Children of Israel. Allah raises the mountain above the whole people saying, “Hold firmly to what We have given you (the Torah) and remember what is in it.” (2:63) The whole nation’s fate stands under the shadow of mount Sinai, and this explains the miracle of all Israel agreeing to the covenant. This may be the reason why Musa is the only prophet whose book comes not from an angel but directly from Allah.

Isaiah via Wikipedia

Isaiah via Wikipedia

Individuals who hear a prophet may choose to believe or disbelieve, but when God Himself makes ‘an offer that you can’t refuse’, everyone is in for all generations to come, and then has to struggle with living up to the deal. The many prophets that address the Children of Israel are teachers and guides more than rebukers because the covenant between God and the Umma of  b’nai Israel is for all generations.

Thus the covenant is not just for the community of the faithful; but for the whole community of Israel, which includes some whose hearts are like rocks that spring forth streams, while others only yield water when split, and others sink for fear of Allah.(2:74) It is this last segment of the Children of Israel that Prophet Muhammad refers to when he rebukes the Children of Israel.

The Koran correctly understood doesn’t attack all of Israel. Every community, including the Muslim umma contains groups of faithful believers and a party who disbelieve. All the prophets of Israel opposed the same kind of religious hypocrites in their day, as Prophet Muhammad did in his day.

Rabbi Maller’s web site is: www.rabbimaller.com

 Records: Undercover FBI Agent Was Near Gunmen Before Garland Terror Attack (dfw.cbslocal.com)

 Prophet Muhammad and the Full Moon (paulsarmstrong.com)

 Georgetown professor defends Islamic slavery and ‘non-consensua’l sex (americanthinker.com)

 American sentenced 30 years for aiding Islamic State (bostonherald.com)

 What Donald Wants to Ban: (brothersjuddblog.com)

 Denmark to pursue first blasphemy case since 1971 against man who burned Koran (hotair.com)

 Phoenix man gets 30 years for helping plot Texas attack (stripes.com)

 ISIS was grooming child soldiers in a Mosul orphanage (businessinsider.com)

 Borno women react to Emir Sanusi’s ‘one-wife-for-the-poor’ proposal (vanguardngr.com)

 ‘Radical’ Muslims? The History of Salafists (livescience.com)