Feast of the Sacrifice
© February 2004 by Asher Intrater
Sunday, February 01, 2004 is the greatest feast on the calendar. On this day, 200 million Americans worship the "gods of the coliseum" - Superbowl! But to much of the rest of the world, to 500 million Muslims, that same day marks "Chag Hakorban", the Great Feast of the Sacrifice.
The Great Feast of the Sacrifice represents the high point of the pilgrimage to Mecca. This year there were over two million pilgrims on this Muslim Feast in Saudi Arabia at the same time that Americans were watching the Superbowl. Saudi officials reported that on Sunday the pilgrims were so crowded that over 250 (!) people were crushed to death under foot and hundreds more severely wounded as they marched up Vadi Mina.
It was because of this feast that Sheikh Nasssralla of Hizbollah pushed through the prisoner exchange with Israel, so that his followers could celebrate the prisoner exchange as a Muslim religious victory.
On the same day that the prisoners were exchanged, there was a horrible suicide terrorist attack on Jerusalem bus line 19, just two blocks from the prime minister's home. The Israelis looked with wonder and horror at television pictures of Muslims dancing in the street, as we mourned our dead and turned to bury our victims.
The Israeli Foreign Ministry put out this simple statement, which expressed the feelings of many here:
"Israelis started their morning today having to face
shocking pictures of dead commuters - victims of a yet another suicide bomber.
The anti-terrorist fence could have prevented this massacre. The sheer absurdity
cannot be ignored.
The world increase of anti-Semitism and the terrorist attacks connected with the Feast of Sacrifice are more than just a coincidence. In fact the very root of the problem is located just there.
Muslims believe that on the Feast of the Sacrifice, God asked Abraham to sacrifice his beloved son as a test of faith. His beloved son of course was - Ishmael, not Isaac. And where was that test of faith? On Mount Moriah - the Temple Mount in Jerusalem? No. According to Islam it took place at the Kaabah in Mecca, the place to which Muslims make pilgrimage.
That is the razor point of the difference. The story of the "binding of Isaac" was simply changed to accommodate their ethnic feelings. There is an issue of racial honor, of wounded pride, of religious anger. (Note: Changing the beloved son from Isaac to Ishmael also, by implication, disqualifies Yeshua (Jesus) as the Messiah, since He is of the lineage of Isaac, not Ishmael.)
The question is, does truth here matter at all? Or is it all just a matter of folklore. Can we just "rewrite" history to fit our cultural desires? Truth is sometimes offensive, and every racial group would rather have their religion and culture justified than to deal with the truth. (Note: It is popular today, both in liberal European circles and in Islamic dominated countries, for instance, to deny that the Holocaust even happened.)
The truth is that Abraham's trial took place in Jerusalem, not Mecca. That he symbolically offered up Isaac, not Ishmael. And the image of Isaac's sacrifice points to the sacrifice of Yeshua (Jesus). And He was Jewish. (Note: Islam correctly identifies the connection between the offering of Abraham's beloved son and the sacrificing of animals for atonement.)
The fact that Jesus was Jewish seems to be an offensive truth to all three religions: Christianity, Islam and Judaism. But it is the truth. Intellectual honesty - the willingness to change when faced with objective and moral truth - is an essential spiritual quality. However we all have a tendency to "rearrange" the truth to fit our personal preferences and prejudices.
Arabs may find it offensive that the Abrahamic covenant went through Isaac instead of Ishmael, but it is the truth. Jews may find the story of the "Passion" of Jesus in Mel Gibson's new film to be offensive, but it is the truth. Americans may find it offensive that their preoccupation with video and media entertainment is an enormous waste of time, but it is the truth.
May God grant us the grace to have a "love of the truth" (II Thessalonians 2:10), and to have the moral courage to be willing to let the truth change our lives (John 8:32).
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