What is the Deepest Sacrifice? Muslims Observe Eid al-Adha

Rabbi Arthur Waskow 1/21/2005

Asalaam aleikum, eid mubarak! Peace be with you, may the festival Muslims are now celebrating be one of blessing!

As Muslims celebrate Eid al Adha, the Festival of the Sacrifice, we can all learn from this commemoration of Abraham's (Ibrahim's) willingness to obey God's demand that he make an offering of what was most precious to him. The story begins (but does not end) with the understanding that the offering should be Ibrahim's son — Ishmael, in Muslim tradition.

We might all take the opportunity to ask ourselves what we are prepared to sacrifice to join in God's call that we seek peace and justice.

I am struck that once Ibrahaim has made clear he is willing to offer God what is dearest to him, God turns from demanding the death of his son to providing a sheep for an offering — and Ibrahim uses the sheep to feed the poor. I am espccially struck that Muslim families to this very day celebrate Eid by feeding the poor.

We might almost say that one teaching we receive from this moment is to feed the poor instead of killing our children.

We are all at this moment caught in a war that is doing ther exact reverse — robbing the poor in order to kill our children. This is a travesty, a disaster, a denial of God's Will. May we all receive the blessing that next year at Eid, we will have been able to turn America back to truly serving the God of compassion.

We might ask — How deep is the sacrifice involved in simply feeding the poor? If I do this with the assumption that I really own what is my hands and I am being generous and charitable in giving it, the sacrifice is just the value of what I give.

But in the context of Eid, this act is both the reality and the symbol of saying something deeply different: I am ready to relinquish precisely the tug to say that what is in my hands is mine. To relinquish this habit that possesses me is indeed a deep sacrifice — much bigger than the specific food or money that I give the poor. With this act I affirm that I do not really "own" what is in my hands. All of it belongs to God, and therefore I must share it with other human beings.

May God bless us that by next year at Eid, many many more Americans will be conscious of God's ownership, and will be devoting their resources to truly serving the God of compassion by empowering the poor.

In the meantime, a moment next fall offers us the opportunity to connect our Muslim, Jewish, and Christian holy days in seeking peace and justice. The Muslim holy month of Ramadan and the Jewish holy month of Tishrei (which begins with Rosh Hashanah and includes Yom Kippur and the harvest festival, Sukkot) will coincide.

They will begin on or about October 3, and the saint's day for Francis of Assisi falls on October 4.

For more information on this confluence, see our article, Ramadan, High Holidays, Assisi -- Oct 3-4, 2005.

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