Saturday, October 27, 2012

Truce Broken in Syria During Eid al Adha Holiday and What This Holiday Is All About

Nadene Goldfoot
Right now Muslims are celebrating Eid al Adha.  It is also called Feast of the Sacrifice.   It is said to be Islam's most important holiday that started Thursday evening and lasts 4 days.  Assad had agreed to keep the truce for the 4 days, but he broke it by bombing a building in the Damascus suburb and killing 8 people.  He didn't keep his word.

What is this holiday of Eid al-Adha about, anyway?  It's about Abraham sacrificing his son, but in the Muslim version, the son is Ishmael, not Isaac.  Mohammad, the prophet of Islam, was born  in 570 CE and died in 632.  He had been exposed to hearing stories told by Jews in Saudi Arabia and adopted many of ours.  In his version, Abraham was about to sacrifice Ishmael, but in the Jewish  version, which is about 2,000 years older than Mohammad's, it was Isaac.

Jews have Abraham born in the beginning of  the 2nd millennium BCE.  This is a big difference as in the Jewish version, Ishmael was the first child of Hagar the Egyptian, the handmaiden of his wife, Sarah.  Abraham circumcises Ishmael  at age 13.   Ishmael was so mean and unruly to his baby brother, Isaac that Sarah had asked Abraham to send them both away, which in our version, he did. Ishmael would have been older than 13.  We understood they went off to live in Paran.  He joined Isaac in burying Abraham.  His daughter married Esau.   It's presumed that Ishmael was the father of the Arabs.

  The Muslim version has Abraham  bringing Hagar and baby Ishmael to Saudi Arabia from Canaan.  It was then, as the story goes, a dry, rocky and uninhabited place.  At the time Isaac hadn't been born yet and has him married to Hagar.  He was going back to Canaan alone and Hagar asked him if she was left to die.  He answers saying it was G-d telling him to do this, and he leaves her and the boy a lot of food and water, but they are hungry and thirsty after 2 days.  She prays and water gushes up by Ishmael's feet.  Other accounts have the angel Gabriel striking the earth causing the spring to flow.  This Zamzam Well lets them trade water with nomads for food and supplies.

Years later Abraham is told to return from Canaan to build a place for worship next to this well.  He and Ishmael build the Kaaba, which became a gathering place.  Ishmael became a prophet and "gave the nomads of the desert his message of submission to G-d.  Mecca became a thriving desert city and center for trade thanks to the Zamzam Well".

Abraham was commanded by G-d to sacrifice his only son. (This is part of both Islam and Judaism traditions.).  In the Islamic version, they have Satan tempting Abraham and his family by trying to dissuade them from carrying out G-d's commandment and Abraham "Ibrahim" driving Satan away by throwing pebbles at him.   To remember rejecting Satan, stones are thrown at symbolic pillars signifying Satan during the Hajj rites.  At age 13 when Abraham was 99 years old, G-d tested their faith in public.  Abraham had a dream to sacrifice his son.  He asked Ishmael for permission and he gave it.  He cut Ishmael's throat while blindfolded so he didn't have to see him die, and found he was unharmed.  Instead, he found a dead ram which had been slaughtered.  Abraham had passed the test by his willingness to follow G-d's command.  As a reward for this sacrifice, God granted Abraham the good news of the birth of his 2nd son, Isaac.  Muslims commemorate this ultimate act of sacrifice every year during Eid al-Adha.

We Jews have a different take on the story.  Isaac, circumcised at 8 days, was saved by divine intervention with G-d telling Abraham that he didn't have to sacrifice Isaac. He was just being tested in obeying G-d.  Evidently in those days sacrificing people had been going on.  This put an end to Abraham's followers accepting human sacrifice.  Our story continues.

Isaac grew up to marry Rebekah, daughter of Bethuel and they had twin sons, Jacob and Esau.  Jacob received Isaac's death blessing instead of Esau due to his bad eyesight and Jacob tricking him.  Esau was the older twin by a few minutes but was wild.  The twins became enemies because of this and Esau sought to kill Jacob.  Jacob had to get out of town and went to Haran.  20 years later Esau received him affectionately.  Jacob's name was changed to Israel and Esau was connected with Edom.  Esau was connected with villainy and violence, and a coarse materialist.  This is why Jacob had to pretend to be Esau to receive his father's important inherited blessing.  

In the United States Muslims will wear traditional clothing, pray, make pilgrimage to the Kabba in Saudi Arabia, have special foods, and give gifts.  The USA has a special stamp commemorating this holiday "aimed to highlight the business, educational and social contributions that Muslims made in the United States".

Jews do not have a holiday in commemorating this story, though it is an important part of our religious history and we are very familiar with it.  Abraham is for us, the Father of Judaism as he broke away from Ur and went to Canaan to keep his family believing in one G-d.  He started monotheism.  He's the one who broke the idols in his father's idol shop.

The people of Gaza slaughter animals for the holiday themselves in duplicating Abraham's sacrificing an animal instead of his son.  The story on Haaretz tells about a cow that tried to get away.


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