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What is greater?

This is for both the Muslims and Jews, who coincidentally should read my blog.. Something I’ve been wondering and – admittedly – a bit frustrated about, is our apparent need to focus on the differences between us, instead of focusing on what we have in common.. During my education, I’ve been study some Islam studies, mostly Fiqh and comparative religion, and – as I see it – there’s too much we have in common, that we should have this dissociation to each other.. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not necessarily talking about that we should sit down and sing songs of brotherhood together:o), but at least put the hostilities away, at least sometimes..

Sure, we know that we don’t agree when it comes to Israel and Palestine.. Jews feel that Israel is the victim, and Muslims that Palestinians are the victims, and we can have that discussion until the end of days, and we might even find some agreements, but we’ll probably never be agreeing totally.. And this is politics, and though I know that politics takes a great share in both our religions, that isn’t all there is.. Let’s take our rules and laws, as an example.. Maybe they show our agreements and similitude the most.. If we look at what we call our system of religious law, we already find the first similarity: Halachah and Shari’âh.. Both mean the “walking” or “direction”.. Halachah from the root “HaLaCh”, to walk, and Shari’âh which means “way” or “path”, originally the path to the waterhole.. Both implying that this is the “walk” that G-D wants the believers to follow.. And so both Halachah and Shari’âh is seen as the “way to walk”.. And we could even continue by finding examples on how we understand our laws and teachings, and how we extract rules and deeper understanding, but that’s not what I want to focus on, though it actually is a very interesting phenomenon, but maybe another time..

No, I really want to focus on hate, forgiveness and Avraham Avinu (A”S), our father Avraham (or Ibrâhîm, as the Arabic version of his name is).. Both in the Jewish and Islamic tradition (even in Arabic pre-Islamic traditions) Avraham is seen as the common forefather of both the Jews and the Arabs, The Jews via Yitzḥaq (Arabic: Isḥâq) and Ya’aqov (Arabic: Ya’qûb), A”S, and the Arabs via Ismâ’îl (Hebrew: Yishma’el) and Qeturah.. So, as most of us probably are aware of, we’re distant cousins, but both origin from this great forefather, who – if any – was, and still is, an exponent of true hosting, and is such portrayed both in the Jewish and the Islamic tradition..

This was a man, for who for all human played a great factor.. And among Jews, he is seen as the first Jew, which many Muslims have reacted to, since Jews come from Ya’aqov, and so we have yet another discussions;o).. But nevertheless, Avraham Avinu (A”S) is understood as the first Jews, the reason being, that he was the first that dared discuss with G-D.. Not because he wanted to elevate himself against G-D, but out of love for humankind.. The example I’m thinking about, is when G-D send His three angels to S’dom and G’morah, to raze the two cities because of the sin of the people in the cities.. The scene takes place in Bereshit (Genesis) 18,20-33:

And HaShem said, “Since the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah has become great, and since their sin has become very grave, I will descend now and see, whether according to her cry, which has come to Me, they have done; [I will wreak] destruction [upon them]; and if not, I will know.” And the men turned from there and went to Sodom, and Abraham was still standing before HaShem. And Abraham approached and said, “Will You even destroy the righteous with the wicked? Perhaps there are fifty righteous men in the midst of the city; will You even destroy and not forgive the place for the sake of the fifty righteous men who are in its midst? Far be it from You to do a thing such as this, to put to death the righteous with the wicked so that the righteous should be like the wicked. Far be it from You! Will the Judge of the entire earth not perform justice?” And HaShem said, “If I find in Sodom fifty righteous men within the city, I will forgive the entire place for their sake.” And Abraham answered and said, “Behold now I have commenced to speak to HaShem, although I am dust and ashes. Perhaps the fifty righteous men will be missing five. Will You destroy the entire city because of five?” And He said, “I will not destroy if I find there forty-five.” And he continued further to speak to Him, and he said, “Perhaps forty will be found there.” And He said, “I will not do it for the sake of the forty.” And he said, “Please, let HaShem’s wrath not be kindled, and I will speak. Perhaps thirty will be found there.” And He said, “I will not do it if I find thirty there.” And he said, “Behold now I have desired to speak to HaShem, perhaps twenty will be found there.” And He said, “I will not destroy for the sake of the twenty.” And he said, “Please, let HaShem’s wrath not be kindled, and I will speak yet this time, perhaps ten will be found there.” And He said, “I will not destroy for the sake of the ten.” And HaShem departed when He finished speaking to Abraham, and Abraham returned to his place.

This is very interesting.. Why did Avraham Avinu (A”S) begin this discussion with G-D? Surely, G-D would know whether there were 50, 40, 30 or even ten righteous among the people of S’dom and G’morrah, so how dared Avraham Avinu (A”S) discuss with G-D, shouldn’t he just think, that G-D knows better than him, and accept whatever faith would befall the people of the two cities? That would be one conclusion, but not to Avraham Avinu (A”S) who loved the creation of G-D, and asked that mercy for the few, would be weighed higher than punishment on the many.. Love above wrath.. And such he risked the Wrath of HaShem, to plead for love for the few to be stronger than anything else.. And G-D accepted this, though the citizens of the two cities, later on showed that not even that did they want, but that’s another (though related) story..

Being a “ben Avraham”, I try to let my father be the guiding example for me.. And when he pleaded even with G-D, to let the few righteous be the focus among the many that you might feel hostility to, then shouldn’t I do the same? Shouldn’t all of us do that? Instead of focusing on those, among the other, who we hate and view as wicked, shouldn’t we instead follow the example of our common forefather, who truly was righteous, and instead focus on the righteous among each other? I think that if we do this, the number of wicked people among us, will surely fall, and – BE”H – even disappear..

May we all see peace in our days, BE”H


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