Rosh Chodesh (the first day of the new month) Nisan was this past Shabbat. Nisan is the month in the Hebrew calendar, where we celebrate Pesach (Passover). Pesach begins on April 15 and concludes on April 23. The entire month leading up to Pesach is a deep preparation, for the holiday. This is also the time of the Islamic religious period of Ramadan (Ramadan began April 2 and concludes May 2. The Islamic calendar is a lunar calendar without a leap year. Pesach and Ramadan are sometimes in close proximity, but they can also be nowhere near each other). Of course, Christians throughout the world are looking towards their celebration of Easter. Easter is on April 17.
On Pesach we focus on telling the story of the Exodus from Egypt. We formed our relationship in part with God because God took us out of Egypt. This makes this period of time, for the Jewish people, about deep spiritual introspection.
Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. It is a month of fasting and prayer, observed in order for Muslims to get closer to God and to purify themselves. It is an intensely religious period in Islam.
A theme of Easter is redemption. To make the realization that God is there to help and save individuals and humanity. Even at the darkest moments.
This is not the only time when Judaism and Islam and other faiths as well have their holy times coincide. Chanukah sometimes coincides with Christmas. These holidays have little to nothing in common, yet the ideas that these holidays articulate are one that all people of faith can relate to.
Furthermore, it gives us a moment to pause. Many of us are looking forward to the day when people of all religions come together. When we are in a period in our different religious calendars when people of various beliefs find themselves celebrating their own holidays simultaneously, it provides us with an opportunity to think about how to unite people of different faith communities without anyone compromising their religious convictions. With that in mind I would like to make five suggestions:
- We should all strive to understand each other. Often misconceptions cause conflicts between people of different faiths. Having a greater knowledge of other faith communities could help to breed mutual understanding.
- When there are issues that create conflicts between different faith communities, it must be understood that violence is never an acceptable way of dealing with these conflicts.
- Many of our faith communities share a connection to the Tanach, the Bible. In the first book of the Bible, the book of Bereishit, Genesis 1:26, we are taught that all human beings are created in the image of God. If we truly believe in this theological idea than this has to transform the way, we look at our fellow human being. It means that we must see the divinity and dignity in every human being, regardless of their faith and regardless of our respective theological disagreements.
- There is nothing wrong and everything right about passionately believing in one’s faith. However intense one’s belief is in one’s own theology, it is in no way a reason to devaluate another faith community. When we disagree, we must do so respectfully.
- At the same time, we should never let pluralism degrade itself into moral relativism. There are things that are objectively wrong, specifically, violence, non-defensive physical force, torture, hate and prejudice. Different faith communities must stand as one against these ills of our society.
According to the Talmud Yoma 9b, the Second Temple was destroyed because of the sin of Sinat Chinam: blind hatred. Hatred within the Jewish community. According to Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, the first Chief Rabbi of Pre-State Israel, since it was blind hatred that caused the destruction of the Temple, it is only Ahavat Chinam, blind love of our fellow Jew that will cause the rebuilding of the Temple, and bring redemption to the world (Orot HaKodesh vol. III, p. 324). I think we can apply Rabbi Kook’s concept of blind love not only to our fellow Jew, but to all of humanity.