By Rabbi Rick Sherwin
The Muslim world concludes its Ramadan month of daytime fasting this coming Tuesday, June 4th. The sunrise to sunset fast is Islam’s active reminder to reach out to those in need of support, especially with food and medical attention, as well as to introspect and examine personal priorities and communal obligations. In many ways, it is like the Jewish summer month of Elul preceding the High Holy Days. The daily sounding of Shofar reminds us to review our priorities and to respect the Divine Image in each individual.
At the end of each day during the month of fasting, families, and communities come together, inviting guests to an Iftar, the meal breaking the fast. This month, I was privileged to be invited to two Iftars as a friend and as a rabbi representing my spiritual community. At each Iftar, everyone was wonderfully welcoming, offering heartfelt words of peace and support.
At the Islamic Center of Orlando, I shared a perspective of commonalities we share and misperceptions we must face together:
- World governments, including our own, treat Muslims and Jews as monolithic categories, leading to increasing Islamaphobia and Antisemitism.
- Islam and Judaism are regarded by American society as faith communities. The fact is that we are much more than statements of religious belief: we are culture, language, music, art, and food.
- Judaism and Islam are not Abrahamic Faiths, we are Abrahamic Families, direct descendants of Avraham and Ibrahim, dancing with the Prophetess, Miriam haN’vi-a and Alnabiu Maryam.
- Jews respect the framework of Halal; Muslims the standards of Kashrut.
- Our foundation is the Hebrew Bible; our respective expressions are post-biblical – the Talmud and the Qur’an.
- We share the ideal of welcoming guests, welcoming those in need, opening our homes, and opening our hearts.
To the Christians, Jews, and Muslims in attendance, I shared these challenges:
- Openly acknowledge your own far right-wing extremists who create dangerous stereotypes leading to hate from the outside community. We must not apologize for them; we must denounce them.
- Publicly reject your own militant fanatics who claim to be the one true religious expression, those who justify murder and oppression as an expression of obedience to the Divine Will.
I hope those attending the Iftar were listening!
The Talmudic Sages ask, “What are the world’s most destructive sins? They respond, “murder, lack of sexual boundaries, and idolatry.” And what is the purest form of idolatry? The hubristic worship of self, when “my way is God’s way.” It applies to religion, it applies to politics, it applies to social mores.
Let us celebrate together, eat together, dance together, laugh together, and use our God-given talents to support the physically and spiritually hungry in our communities. Let us speak out together in the name of Allah and Adonai, the Echad calling upon us to extend moral respect from outside our respective communities and from within our own families.
Longtime Longwood resident Rabbi Rick Sherwin, a graduate of UCLA, was ordained by the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York. Rabbi Rick’s passion is filling spiritual services and interfaith educational programs with creativity, relevance, dialogue, and humor.