Jews and Muslims united by the moon


While the Jews pray at the Wailing Wall, Muslims pray at the Al Aqsa Mosque

Within the span of a sunset and a moon rising, two of the world's great faiths mark significant holidays. At sundown, Jews begin celebrating Rosh Hashana. With the sighting of the new moon Tuesday, Muslims begin their observance of Ramadan, a month of fasting and prayer.

It is a fluke of nature that puts the two holidays so close this year. Chance - perhaps. But it also is a chance to note the similarities between two faiths.

Unfortunately, religious holidays - particularly Jewish and Muslim holidays - are too often cast in political terms. While politics plays off religion, most notably in the Middle East, it does a disservice to Jews and Muslims to politicize what are religious days, days of prayer and reflection. Jewish New Year is no more connected to a sovereign Israel than Christmas is to a sovereign Italy. These are days of faith.

This is the year 5766 in the Jewish calendar. Rosh Hashana starts the new year and the High Holy Days for Jews. There is celebration; there is reflection.

As Rosh Hashana gives way to Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, the holiest of days for Jews, prayer, acknowledgement of failings and a deep-seated desire to become more unified with God become central themes.

Ramadan is a month of fasting. It is time for Muslims to reflect on their lives, to abstain from the many pleasures of daily life. During Ramadan, Muslims mark the time when Allah revealed the first verses of the Quran to the Prophet Mohammed. It is a sacred moment.

We are fortunate in the United States to be able to express our faith without fear or reprisal. While hate crimes are committed - and many target Jews and, in the wake of Sept. 11, Muslims - freedom to worship remains a protected right.

Few Americans will be fearful today and tomorrow that they could face persecution on their way to worship.

It is something taken for granted by most Christians in America. It is something cherished by newly arrived immigrants who still seek a sanctuary of freedom in the United States.

The warfare in Iraq, tensions between Israelis and Palestinians will continue long after the celebrations of the coming weeks.

It is unlikely that there will be a cessation of violence because of Rosh Hashana or Ramadan. The world does not operate that way.

Most people do not have impact on a global level. Their universe is the size of their community and that is where change first occurs, where understandings are reached.

There is an opportunity for all of us in America, a rich, culturally diverse country, to experience pieces of other faiths.

Synagogues and mosques reach out to the communities they inhabit. By understanding the "why" behind different forms of prayer, we have the chance to understood the "who" - the people who recite the prayers, raise families and live their lives in accordance to rules that may be foreign to us.

Within the span of a sunset and a moon rising, millions of people with a shared belief in a divine creator will pray, celebrate and reflect on their place in the world.

That is remarkable.

It should happen more than once year.

 

Source: Herald News.


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