Friday, November 04, 2011

Abraham  and Isaac and the Akedah and Eid al-Adha
Nadene Goldfoot

How many million make a billion?  It would take 1,000 million to equal one billion.  With about 7 billlion people on earth today,  Jews number only about 13 million in the world.    Jews make up 0.02% of the world population.  Most Jews live in either Israel or the United States. 

Christians make up 33% of the total world population with 2.1 billion  followers.  It is the state religion of 16 nations: Armenia, Argentina, Bolivia, Costa Rica, Denmark, El Salvador, England, Greece, Georgia, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Malta, Monaco, Norway, and the Vatican City, of course.  The Roman Catholic Church is predominate with 1.17 billion or about half of the Christian population in the world. 

There are 1.57 billion Muslims in the world.  that's 1/4 of the world population.    Fewer than 15% of them are Arabs.  The highest Muslim Arab populations are Egypt with 79 million, Iraq with 32 million , Saudi Arabia with 25 million, Yemen with 23 million and Syria with 20 million.  Iranians are not Arabs but are Persians and they have 74 million Muslims.  Muslims have about 40 countries where they are the majority of the population.

Abraham was the father of both Ishmael and Isaac.  Ishmael's mother was the Egyptian handmaid of Sarah, Abraham's wife who later gave birth to Isaac.  This was the beginning of the rift between Arabs and Jews, probably.  Abraham is the father of Judaism, breaking away from the city of Ur in the Chaldees, which is today's Iraq, where they had been worshipping clay idols as gods.  Being that Abraham's father, Terah, was an idol maker, Abraham knew that this was not a truth, and came to believe in one unseen god.  In order to make a clean break in habits for his family, he took his father and the rest of his family and migrated to a place where Canaanites and Philistines lived and pitched his tent.  He visited Egypt, then returned to live in Hebron.  His nephew, Lot, had migrated with him but separated only to get into trouble with the Elamites, so Abraham fought with the kings of Elam, Shiar and their allies in order to rescue him.  This is when G-d spoke to him telling him that his seed would inherit the land "from the river of Egypt to the Euphrates, and tested his loyalty to him with the ordering the sacrifice of Isaac. "And He said, "Please take your son, your only one, whom you love--Isaac---and go to the land of Moriah; bring him up there as an offering upon one of the mountains which I shall tell you." G-d did not say, "Slaughter him," because He did not intend for Isaac to be slaughtered, but only that he be brought up to the mountain and be prepared as an offering. The Torah does not use the word which signifies the slaying of the sacrificial victim.  From the outset, there was no intention of accepting a human sacrifice, although Abraham was at first not aware of this.  Mount Moriah is the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

 Abraham was stopped by an angel of G-d who had been testing him. "Do not stretch out your hand against the lad nor do anything to him for now I know that you are a G-d-fearing man, since you have not withheld your son, your only one, from Me".  (Being that Abraham made all the provisions to carry this out, though not wanting to, I believe that human sacrifice at that time and place was not unheard of, though Abraham always had sacrificed animals. It's hard for us to realize that this event occurred about 4,000 years ago.  Look how people have changed in the last 391 years from 1620 when the Pilgrims sailed on the Mayflower from Holland to Plymouth Rock.  They believed in witches and burned women at the stake if they were found to be one. 

Muslims will be making a pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia this week for their annual hajj.  All Muslims are expected to do this once in their lives.  2.5 million were there in 2010.  Many of the concepts they will be remembering are linked to the life of Ibrahim or Abraham.  One of the holy days, Eid al-Adha, is about the willingness of Abraham to sacrifice his son, only in the Koran it is Ishmael that is the son to be sacrificed.  The Ishmaelites lived in N Arabia between Egypt and the Assyrian border who traditionally were the Arab descendants of Ishmael, and modern Arabs still claim this descent.  They are mentioned in Gen. 25:12 ff.  They also had been divided into 12 tribes, just like the Jews' 12 tribes. 

 The story, first found in the "Old Testament or Torah and later in the 600's CE of the Koran also says that G-d intervened and spared the boy's life where the son is Isaac. ishmael and his mother Hagar had already been sent away.   Jews remember this event as the Akedah found in Genesis 22.  This is read as the portion of the Law on the 1st day of Rosh ha-Shanah, or the Birthday of the world, the Jewish New Year. 

At Bet Alpha in the Beit She'an Valley in NE Israel, a mosaic floor was found in a 6th century CE synagogue of the binding of Isaac to the altar.  It pictures two young men waiting with the ass, the ram caught in the thicket, and divine intervention in the form of a hand with Abraham laying Isaac on the Altar.  This is the site of a Jewish village from the 5-6th CE where Kibbutz Bet Alpha now lies.  It is north from Jerusalem and you get to it before you get to Nazareth. 

Reference Oregonian newspaper 11/4/11section # Hajj by the numbers: Islam's pilgrimage'an
The New Standard Jewish Encyclopedia
Pentateuch and Haftorahs-Dr JH Hertz, Chief Rabbi of the British Empire
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