The 28th Israeli-Palestinian retreat of interfaith encounter was dedicated to IEA's 30th on-going group – the Circle of Light and Hope, an Israeli-Palestinian group that resulted from the 25th retreat, which was also kindly hosted by the Austrian Hospice. I hope you will all enjoy the update below, written by Rabbi Bob Carroll, who together with Dr. Taleb Alharithy of the Palestinian Peace Society coordinates this group.
The retreat was held at the Austrian Hospice in the Old City of Jerusalem. While unfortunately some of us had to leave early because of a family member being hospitalized (we hope and pray for her full recovery!!), we nevertheless had some fruitful and engaging discussions on the theme, which was Nabi Yussuf/Joseph.
The Jewish presentation, which was given by Bob with many very good questions/comments from Taleb, consisted of a very short summary of the story of Joseph as it is presented in the Torah, together with some thoughts and questions. Bob mentioned that in the Jewish tradition, Joseph is primarily referred to not as “Joseph the Prophet” as he is in Islam, but rather as “Yoseph haTzaddik” – “Joseph the Righteous.” This is somewhat difficult to understand, as at many points in his life’s story, Joseph seems to be somewhat egotistical, perhaps even cruel. In rabbinic teachings, his description as a “Tzaddik” is often linked to his not succumbing to sexual temptation… but even in this regard the record is equivocal. While some did in fact feel that the title of “righteous” is greatly exaggerated in Joseph’s case, others felt that if one looks at the story closely, one sees that there is much going on “under the surface”. Specifically, God, in the Torah’s version, is not mentioned very often throughout most of the story, outside of Joseph’s assertion that his interpretations of dreams came from God. But at the end of the tale, when Joseph finally reveals himself to his brothers, he realizes that everything that had happened, even including the things he himself had done as a young boy to arouse their jealousy and enmity, had come from God. It is this realization, that God had been acting behind the scenes all along, which causes Joseph to forgive his brothers for selling him into slavery. Perhaps it was this ability to see God’s hand in history, and to perceive that all that had happened was for good and was planned by God so that the Israelites might live, which indeed makes Joseph into a true Prophet and Tzaddik.
On Friday morning we had to cut our discussions short, but nevertheless had a wonderful informal conversation about interfaith work and the role of IEA, which included one participant sharing some liturgical texts that her synagogue (in the Jewish Reform tradition) had written, and which emphasize the Jewish commitment to the welfare of all people and peace between all people. We also briefly discussed some aspects of Sufi and Christian and Jewish mystical/Chassidic teachings and how they are often so strikingly similar, even in different religions. It was suggested that it might be a wonderful idea for IEA to host an event or retreat focusing on mystical poetry in the three religions, from people like (but not limited to) Rabbi Kuk, Rumi, San Juan de La Cruz, etc.
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