This was a very well-attended meeting with several new people that we held at Tantur in Jerusalem. We started by introducing each other and mentioning that Taleb and I are both avid fossil collectors (I am just an amateur but he is a professor of Paleontology.) So in fact it was our love of science that was one of the things that brought us together. I started off by mentioning the potential conflict between two sources of truth: revelation and and reason/science, and suggested that this is only a problem for those who believe that both are Divine – anyone who accepts only one as the final authority has no conflict. But the dominant trend in jewish thinking has been to affirm that if one understands both correctly then they cannot be opposed. Traditional Jews do believe that the text of the Torah is inerrant, but that doesn’t mean that it is trying to teach us science as such. Maurene mentioned the famous comment of Rashi that the text of Genesis doesn’t intend to teach us the exact order of creation; if it did, it would have used a different word. Ra’anan me ntioned the verse “A thousand years are as one day in Your sight” as proof that days in the creation narrative don’t need to be understood as 14-hour days; thus opening a possibility for belief in both the Bible and evolution. Meesh mentioned that in her experience, yeshiva students are not taught about dinosaurs, which is rather sad, as it means that some teachers think that their belief in Torah contradicts the findings of modern science; Ra’anan pointed out that the Torah in many places speaks of taninim, a type of sea monster, which were created before human beings.
In Islam, there are tensions – similar to those in Judaism - between those believers who see science as a threat to true belief and those who view it as an alternate path to discover truth. In fact Islam has a tremendous record of scientific discovery and of incorporating scientific knowledge; to a very great extent, it was Islamic scholarship which preserved a great deal of knowledge and promoted scientfiic inquiry during the middle ages when it was suppressed in Europe. Taleb cited a saying of the prophet Mohammed: “Anyone can say ‘I know’ until he says ‘I know everything.’ Once though someone says that, he is considered to be a fool and illiterate. In other words, we must be open, both in matters of faith and matters of science, to knowing that there may be a great deal that we don’t know. Mohammed also says: “Everything you know is like a finger in the ocean” – it is a tiny percentage of the whole truth. We all agreed that we should approach both science and faith fearlessly but also with tremendous humility.
In short, this was one of our more cerebral meetings, but it was very fascinated and engendered much spirited discussion!
Today the first encounter of the semester was held and we have been joined by new members. We started out with introductions, and then moved on to the topic of this semester's encounters, holidays.
We started off with Shabbat, using Maimonides' Mishneh Torah as our main reference source. It started out with the halachot ta'asi vi lo ta'asi ("to do", and "to not do" commandments), it moved on to defining the types of sins/ mistakes and the punishments of each one according to its type. Some types of sins/ mistakes include, unintentional violations of the mitzvot or halachot (for example dragging a chair and accidentally digging a hole in the ground), being aware of the action as certainly resulting in a violation and still doing it, intentionally doing a direct violation, and others, and the punishments include sacrifices, leashes, and excommunication etc,..
Then we moved on to Al-Juma'a which has some parallels to Shabbat in Islamic belief (although fewer than we are used to), we read a verse from the Quran calling people to Al-Juma'a prayer, and then moved on to read Hadiths from Sahih Al-Bukhari, they included Hadeeths that talk about the importance of talking a bath (ightisal) before going to the prayer. There was also a Hadeeth that mentioned Juma'a as the holy day for Muslims as opposed to Shabbat for Jews and Sunday for Christians.
Nov. 9th, 2016
We read sections of al-Bukhari about the injunction of the Prophet (PBUH) to wash one’s entire body on Friday before prayer, even if one is late to prayers. Included in this is the preference that one pray very soon after washing, and that doing so is equivalent to bringing a material sacrifice (the closer to prayer, the better the sacrifice it is compared to---camels, cows, sheep, chickens, etc.). We discussed a bit about the role of men and women in public prayer, between the two religions and in different communities.
We also talked about the laws of Shabbat and the relationship between intent, ability, and result of prohibited actions on Shabbat. This topic included doing a forbidden action but for an unrelated reason (not allowed) and more than one person performing a prohibited activity together with another person (not allowed, but doesn't carry a court punishment). We learned the case of when two individuals perform an act together, one whose participation is required and one whose participation is optional (for example a weightlifter and his much weaker friend carry a heavy board together), how the first person is punished while the second is not. This led to a discussion on intent versus performance of an action in law and the two religions and how fair or just this system is for determining responsibility.
After a brief round of introductions, several participants stressed the necessity and importance of the meeting, and the shared obligation to build fraternity between the communities – that each one help will help his neighbor, and asked God to bless the meeting.
After that, we turned to the subject of the meeting: the answer. Sheikh Nasser opened his book on our father Abraham who helped the people and slowly taught them about God, until he brought them back to him. He stressed that it’s the duty of person to work hard – by praying and helping people.
The conversation turned to emphasize the similarities between Judaism and Islam and the positive relationship that should be between them.
Ma’zouz stressed that one of the foundations of Islam is also to believe in the Bible, and if we examine closely, we can see that the Qura’an talks about the people of Israel in a positive way, God chose them among all people. He claimed that if the Arabs learn the Qura’an properly and the Jews learn the Torah properly – it would be easy to make peace.
Abu Mahmoud said that, according to Qura’an – the role of the people of Israel is to teach the people to do good and avoid evil. The Muslim is who surrenders to God – it doesn’t matter from which religion he is. The meeting on a religious level allows us to connect more strongly than if it were on a political level. We all are against violence and pray to have real peace here.
Rabbi Dov: Jews and Muslims together should make the world better. There is a problem with the Jews that not all of them received good religious education.
Rabbi Ben: the Qura’an talks positively about “sons of Israel” but negatively on “Jews”. But at that time, there were many Jewish groups and this one is not related to the Jews of today. The “Jews” are the honest and the Judaism of today is the continuation of the “rabbis”, who were chosen by the Caliph Omar as the main Jewish connecting group and he appointed Bostanai the son of Haninai as the head of the Diaspora. It is important that Muslims understand that the Jews of today are the continuation of the sons of Israel. On the other hand – the Jews need to know about the people of Kini who were influenced by the sons of Noah and kept their laws. Onclos translates the name Kini – “Shalmai” (500 years before the prophet Mohammad!)
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