And God Tested the Children of Abraham

Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi

And God Tested the Children of Abraham

By Zalman Schachter-Shalomi*

In the Middle East we are living in an experiment that cannot be called off. We ultimately must and will find a way to live in mutual support and harmony with one another. The rest of the world and its future depends on our working it out. It is one of the most critical elements in the current state of evolution of our planet.

My search for the current voice of ethics in Islam

I hope that it is clear that I not only honor Islam through my connection with Sufism but through my interactions with the servants of Allah whom I had the privilege to encounter.

AND it is this that made me ask my Moslem friends for a direction to find the voice of ethics and concern in Islam.. When Moslems are killing Moslems — in Turkey, Iraq,. and Iran, Kurds were killed; in Algiers, fellow Algerian Moslems — I had hoped to hear a voice that would in Allah's Name demand higher and more humane ethical standards from the believers.

Baba Muhayeddin alav hashalom — who lived in Philadelphia — was such a voice, and Shaikh Abdul Hadi Palazzi and Dr Muhammad Shaalan were among the notable few. I wish that those who want to speak out against senseless murder would feel safe enough to say that this is not what the Jihad which the Koran intended. When fatwas are issued declaring that it is a Mitzvah to kill dissidents to the current rage, it is no wonder that many who feel moved tospeak out do not dare.

Our A-shame-nu.

In each conflict, there are the contributions of each of the opponents that cause aggravation of the frictions. I now list ours:

I am deeply ashamed of our contribution to the conflict, our continuous betrayal of our word, our retaliations that areoutrageous and serve to intensify the conflict.

I am ashamed of our own people who threaten prophetic voices that hold up a Torah standard that urges One Torah for all the inhabitants of the land, that forbids the cutting down of fruit trees even in war. We too have people who issue threats and 'fatwas' against our voices of conscience.

I and many others have had experiences with Palestinians, Moslem and Christian Arabs, and Moslems of different ethnic background in which respect begat respect. There is a nobility in the children of Ishmael that responds with Hakhnassat Orchim — hospitality, G'millut Hassadim, caring kindness and Baishanut, modesty — decency.

After the Holocaust, we ought to have learned not to treat others as Unmenschen.

Was there enough provocation for our forgetting? Yes there was. From the Hevron massacre and before to the present. One of the 'mitzvot' of the Haj [the pilgrimage to Mecca] is to throw a rock at "Shaitan" near the Kaaba. In the five daily prayers, the Fatihah phrase "Shaitan ar rag'im" — Satan who is to be stoned — is recited. Throwing stones affirms the attitude in which Israelis are seen as Satan. So both sides have demonized the other.

The dinosaurian reptilian brain, usually dormant in us, has come out of its lair — yet we try to talk to it with reason as if it were the cortex.

AND the saurian brain is in charge unless one feels safe. I do not know how to restore reason unless we take the risks to provide safety by stopping the settlement expansions, by not bulldozing homes as a first step. Together our peoples must enter into the dialogue of grief of our limbic brain — feeling and sharing the hurt we each carry, to come to the place where "reason" and the cortex can speak.

Hevley leyda