10th of the lunar month
January 10, 2006
Today marks another one of those fascinating calendrical convergenges: Eid ul-Adha, the Muslim feast commemorating Ibrahim's near-sacrifice of his son, and 10 Tevet, a minor Jewish fast day which marks the beginning of the siege of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar's armies. The confluence offers an opportunity to think about hunger, about tzedakah (usually translated as "charity," though the Hebrew root means justice or righteousness,) and about our walls.
Yesterday, Reb Arthur Waskow (of
The Shalom Center and Tent
of Abraham) spoke about Eid and 10 Tevet falling together.
He reminded us that Eid celebrates a Muslim story that twins our
own, though in the
Jewish version of the story it was Isaac who was bound
atop Mount Moriah, not Ishmael. Both peoples derive a continuing practice from the ram in the brush, though we do so differently. Judaism focuses on its horns, which we use even now as a call
to mindfulness; Islam focuses on the whole sheep, giving rise to the Eid practice of slaughtering a sheep in commemoration and giving a third of the meat to the hungry. Eid, therefore, is a call to mindfulness of those in need.
On an (unintentionally) related note, BZ of Mah Rabu suggests that 10 Tevet offers an opportunity for awareness that leads to action. He argues that American Jews should consider this fast day a chance to contemplate and make reparations for suffering within our "city walls," e.g. here at home, and calls us to repent for the millions of Americans living in poverty and hunger, without homes or health care.
This morning in conversation Rabbi Chava Bahle offered the insight that 10 Tevet is an opportunity to think about our walls, both personal and communal, and to make a conscious choice to rise out of the siege mentality which pits "them" against "us." I find her teaching on this tremendously resonant. How does our memory of Nebuchadnezzar's attack fit with our sense that in today's world we are called to have boundaries which are permeable? In Jewish tradition the mitzvat ha-borei, the "mitzvah of the Creator," is to love our neighbors, our "Others," as ourselves; what are our obligations, financially and emotionally, toward those inside and those outside our communal walls?
I wish those who celebrate Eid a joyous festival, and those who are observing the fast of 10 Tevet a meaningful remembrance. May this combination of holy days help us to become aware of those in need, impel us to do what is necessary so that all may have sustenance, and allow us to reconsider how we want to interact with the walls we erect.