To all who read this, to all of Islam, to the world as a whole and to the God Who is Compassion and calls on us to be compassionate, The Shalom Center joins in saying Eid Mubarak! – A Blessed Festival!
Eid al-Adha – the premier Muslim festival, the Festival of the Sacrifice – this year begins this Sunday, December 31, and will last for three days.
It celebrates the end of the Hajj (the annual pilgrimage to Mecca).
During the Hajj, Muslims walk a pathway of places in Mecca that commemorate and symbolize Abraham’s and Hagar’s life-paths and spiritual journeys, culminating with Abraham’s facing the command of God to kill his son. (Although the Quran does not specifically name which son, and although some early Muslim traditions name the son as Isaac, most Muslim tradition sees the offering as Ishmael.)
Abraham was prepared to submit to God’s will. At the last moment, God revealed to him that the “sacrifice” had already been fulfilled by his willingness to obey, to offer what was dearest to him.
And God let Abraham see a ram caught in the thicket, with which the offering could become not only spiritual but also physical.
During the celebration of Eid al-Adha, Muslims commemorate this ram and its place in Abraham’s life, by themselves slaughtering a sheep or goat. One-third of the meat from the sacrifice of Eid al-Adha is eaten by immediate family and relatives, one-third is given away to friends, and one-third is donated to the poor.
These gifts give physical reality to our spiritual assertions that indeed we are willing to give up some of our own bountiful blessings, in order to share with others.
And God’s ultimate command NOT to kill the child could be read in our generation to protect all children. From hunger, abuse, violence, war.
As God cried out: “Don’t kill your children; feed the poor!”
Just as Muslims elevate to the heart of the Festival this profound and troubling story that ends in spiritually triumphant transformation, so Jews read the stories of Isaac and Ishmael on Rosh Hashanah itself (that other “new year”), and Christians celebrate God’s own sacrifice of the Lamb in the passionate hope that it will end the killing of human beings by other human beings.
In the Torah’s telling of the story, God needs only to call Abraham’s name but once, to draw his attention to the command that seems to mean that Isaac must be killed.
But when God’s Messenger calls out to spare the boy, the Voice must call out twice – must say: “Abraham——- ….. ABRAHAM!!” – as if Abraham had become so fixated on carrying out the dreadful murderous demand that he could barely hear the compassionate command.
In all our traditions, there are some who are deaf to God’s Voice when it cries out, “Do NOT kill!” Surely I could list the horrid crimes that even in recent weeks and days flow from this deafness, but on the eve of two deep festivals, let us rather focus on what we need to do to hear the Voice of Life.
May the confluence of the Muslim festival of spiritual renewal with the renewal of the “civil” year be a blessing to us all:
May the rhythms of our lives come together in a new and compassionate meta-rhythm:
May this meta-rhythm infuse our secular activism and the behavior of our governments with the spiritual truth of the Messenger’s Voice: Do not kill your children; Feed the poor.
May this meta-rhythm also infuse our spiritual lives with the “secular” determination not only to yearn but also to turn— to act with vigor, not violence.
Salaam, shalom, peace –
P.S. One year from now, at the end of 2007, Hanukkah will begin the night of December 4 and end December 12; Eid al Adha will begin December 21, and continue for three days; Christmas eve will arrive on December 24. Let us begin imagining and planning now to link these dates and their communities on earth as they are in Heaven.