September 30, 2011

From: Mohammed Rafiq Lodhia
To: Jewish Friends & Colleagues
Subject: ETHICS FROM SINAI

My Dear Jewish Friends,

On listening to one of the thought provoking interviews of Elie Wiesel, the Nobel Laureate and Holocaust survivor, any sane educated human can sense a profound concern about humanity at large so passionately expressed in the following words:

“I was convinced that hatred among nations and many
people perished in Auschwitz. It didn’t. The victims died,
but the haters are still here. New ones; and so often I say
to myself, “Really, what are we doing on this planet?” We
are passing the message as well as we can. Communicating
our fears, our hopes, and day in and day out, week after
week, and year after year, people kill each other.”

After listening to thirty-five spellbinding minutes of the wisdom of Elie Wiesel, one really wonders, “Why does the hatred between Jews and Muslims continue to keep broiling in the Middle East, and what for? As a Muslim, I am proud of the fact that Elie Wiesel sincerely praised the Prophet of Islam right at the end of the interview as follows:

“We are led to believe that true words can communicate
more than truth. They communicate what life is all about;
when it is threatened, when it is in danger. They become
a curse or a blessing. We are led to believe otherwise. We
believe that we are People of the Book after all. And who
called us like that? Muhammad. He gave us that name,
People of the Book.”

Listening to the heartfelt interview with full attentiveness, I cannot help but pass on a paragraph from a book “ETHICS FROM SINAI,” by Mr. Irving M. Binbum as follows:

“Every morning we say in our Shaharith prayers, “Blessed
art Thou, Lord our G-d, King of the universe, who hast given
the sechvi intelligence to distinguish between day and night.”
The word sechvi is generally translated cock or rooster, but
some interpret it as “heart” and take it refer to Jewry, the
“heart of mankind.” We are thankful to the Almighty that
He has given the people of Israel discernment to sense the
difference between conditions of “day” and “night” which
come upon the world, and so act as a beacon light of mankind
when darkness falls.”

Darkness has fallen once again. On the eve of this Jewish New Year, the rooster was heard loud and clear bringing in yet another one of those devastating news about the development of more “Settlements, and G-d forbid the possibility of another round of “Suicide” attacks. For Jewish people, the saga of settlers continues to stall the peace process; and for the Muslims, the fear of another round of deadly suicide attacks against innocent civilians will continue to embarrass us. “Tit For Tat, political maneuverings between Israel and Palestine has diminished any hope whatsoever of attaining peace and harmony in the Middle East. May I humbly ask, “Will there ever be an end to this insanity, my friends?”

Ironically, in the Jewish world there are far too many voices of reason protesting against the building of the settlements. Whereas, in the Islamic world there are far too few who possess enough courage to speak out against the suicide bombers. The end result is that the voices of dissent protesting against the treatment of the Palestinians in the Jewish world gets suppressed, whilst, in the Islamic world the silent majority winds up displaying an act of “Indifference” by not taking into account the root cause of problem that any terrorizing way to achieve world opinion will backfire. Why not take our precious time to watch some of the powerful videos as follows:

Former President Jimmy Carter: We can have peace in the Holy Land

Norman Finkelstein: A Question of Justice

Larry King Live: Dershowitz vs Zogby on Gaza Part 1 & Part 2

Two recent articles, one from S. Rob Sobhani, an American businessman and a Mideast expert titled, Roots Of A Statehood Stalemate which was published in The Washington Times, and the other article from Aijaz Zaka Syed Palestine: U.S. on the wrong side of history which appeared in the Arab News sums up a stark difference in their respective viewpoints. Mr. Sobhani’s pragmatic assessment is worth reading but is more likely to be ignored by many Muslim intellectuals. On the other hand, Mr. Syed’s point of view will be more acceptable to a larger majority of Muslims around the world. So the question of the hour is, “Why do we humans continue to keep a respectable distance from the truth?” This very question has been haunting me for quite some time now.

“Judaism is not a matter of blood or race, but a spiritual dimension of existence, a dimension of holiness. This dimension comes to expression in events, teachings, thoughts, and deeds. Israel’s strength lies in the knowledge that it’s the people of the God of Abraham,” so wrote Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel in his book “The Insecurity Of Freedom” under the subtitle, “Man In His Greatness.” No doubt, the word “Insecurity” makes the people of Israel, and even great Jewish intellectual like Elie Wiesel not being able to confront the ground reality of the deplorable condition in Gaza. In his book “Evil and Exile,” (1990) consisting of six series of interviews between him and a French journalist Phillipe de Saint-Cheron, the question was raised as follows: “But isn’t the fate of the thousands of Palestinians living in the camp, especially, the women and children terrible and unjust?” To this question the response of Elie Weisel was as follows:

“I am moved and concerned by their tragedy, especially
that of the children, the young people. I know that
something must be done, which is why I referred to
their misfortune in my Oslo speech. I said this: “I
am sensitive to their suffering, but I deplore their
methods when they lead to violence.” And I added, “The
Jewish people and the Palestinian people have lost too
many children and have shed too much blood since 1948:
it is time to stop.”

Elie Wiesel: “Come with us to Gaza!”

Two decades ago, Elie Wiesel proclaimed, “It is time to stop. With the Palestinian Statehood up for review at the United Nations, the entire nation of the world will be anxiously awaiting to end the long grueling episode of misery inflicted upon the Palestinian people. There is no point in blaming one side as the fault lies equally between the Israelis and the Palestinians. My earnest request is to take a glance at the image of a Palestinian child and be reminded of an astute remark of former President Jimmy Carter, “We will not learn how to live together in peace by killing each other’s children.

Once again, I am compelled to point out Irving M. Bunim’s emphasis in his book, “ETHICS FROM SINAI” about the three pillars upon which the world of Judaism rests are: “Torah, the study and fulfillment of the Torah; Avodah, service to G-d; G’milath hasadim, man’s kindness in action to his fellow man.” Interestingly, Mr. Bunim highlights the comparison of three basic components of Judaism with the other Abrahimic religions as follows:

Christianity, with its emphasis or self-abnegating
love,seems in certain sense to have adopted “g’ milath
hasadim.”

Islam, with its emphasis on frequent prayer, seems
to have adopted “avodah.”

“Create in me a clean heart, O G-d. and put a new
and right spirit within me,” says the Psalmist (51:12).
True indeed. Right spirit can only be achieved if the
Muslim clerics in the Islamic world stop preaching the
hatred for the “People of The Book,” and on the other
hand, the Jewish people must also realize that it is high
time for them to take a lead in resolving the dispute in
the Holy Land if they truly believe in the words of Irving
M. Bunimthat, “Israel is the barometer of the moral condition
of mankind.”

Witnessing the on-going aggression and suppression conducted with full impunity by Palestine and Israel respectively, one ought to ponder over the remarks of Elie Wiesel, “Human behavior, I am not so sure. I think human beings are capable of the worst things possible. They show that there were times and probably our times, it is human to be inhuman.” What more does the world community need to see in the Holy Land to prove that we humans still remain inhuman?

Mount Sinai symbolizes the Prophethood of Moses (Peace Be Upon Him). For Muslims who mercilessly conduct their violent acts in the name of G-d ought to be ashamed of their actions. I, Mohammed Rafiq Lodhia, can only remind them of the “Chapter 95: At-Tin – Fig” from the Holy Quran which they have totally neglected out of the sheer hatred towards the People of the Book. The chapter reads as follows:

By the fig and the olive,
And by the Mount Sinai
And by this secure land,
We have created man in the best of the mould,
then we cast him down as the lowest of the low,
except those who believe and do good, righteous deeds,
theirs shall be an unending reward!
What then, (O human), causes you, after all (these realities)
to deny the Last Judgment?
Is not G-d the best of judges and Most Powerful of sovereigns?

With Prophet Moses (Peace Be Upon Him) “The Most Humble One, Prophet Jesus (Peace Be Upon Him) “The Most compassionate One” and Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) “The Most Merciful One, where on earth can the three Abrahamic religions go wrong? All the vital components are there if Jews, Muslims and Christians strive hard to conduct  “Intellectually Honest” debates to promote peace and harmony in the Middle East.

May Almighty G-d bestow wisdom upon the political and religious leaders of Israel and Palestine. Let Him impart “Sechvi Intelligence” so as to help them distinguish between “Good versus Evil.” Simply put, security and serenity must replace the settlements and suicides so as to pave the road for a permanent peace in the Holy Land which all the Jews, Christians and Muslims adore so dearly.

My dear friend, I am a day late in relaying my New Year’s greeting owing to having a frozen right shoulder. Yes, I struggled a bit to write this long letter. Nonetheless, I expressed my sentiments with utmost sincerity as always. The Lodhia Family wishes you and your beloved family a very happy, healthy and prosperous New Year. May Almighty G-d bless Israel and Palestine.

Compassionately yours,

Mohammed Rafiq Lodhia


G-D ASKS FOR THE HEART.” Yet our greatest failure is in the heart. “The heart is deceitful above all things, it is exceedingly weak – who can know it? (Jeremiah 17:9). The regard for the ego permeates all our thinking. Is it ever possible to disentangle oneself from the intricate plexus of self-interests? Indeed, the demand to serve G-d in purity, selflessly, “for His sake,” on the one hand, and the realization of our inability to detach ourselves from vested interests, represent the tragic tension in the life of piety. In this sense, not only our evil deeds, but even our good deeds precipitate a problem.

What is our situation in trying to carry out the will of G-d? In addition to our being uncertain of whether our motivation – prior to the act – is pure, we are continually embarrassed during the act with “alien thoughts” which taint our consciousness with selfish intentions. And even following the act there is the danger of self- righteousness, vanity, and the sense of superiority, derived from what are supposed to be acts of dedication to G-d.

It is easier to discipline the body than to control the soul. The pious man knows that his inner life is full of pitfalls. The ego, the evil inclination, is constantly trying to enchant him. The temptations are fierce, yet his resistance is unyielding. And so he proves his spiritual strength and stands victorious, unconquerable. Does not his situation look glorious? But then the evil inclination employs a more subtle device, approaching him with congratulations: What a pious man you are! He begins to feel proud of himself. And there he is caught in the trap. (Rabbi Raphael of Bersht).

CONFUSION OF GOOD AND EVIL
Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel

THE INSECURITY OF FREEDOM
Year: 1959


TRUTH IS IN THE GRAVE
A parable. Rabbi Shimon said:

When G-d was about to create Adam, the ministering angels split into contending groups. Some said, “Let him be created!” while others cried, “Let him not be created!” That is why it is written: “Mercy and truth collided, righteousness and peace engaged in a clash” (Psalm 85:11).

Mercy said: “Let him be created, for he will do merciful deeds.” Truth said, “Let him not be created, for he will be false.” Righteousness said, “Let him be created, for he will do righteous deeds.” Peace said, “Let him not be created, for he will never cease quarreling.”

What did the Holy One, blessed be He, do? He took Truth and cast it into the ground.

It seems that this parable haunted the Kotzker. Indeed after all the heady discourses are over, the intoxication gone, one begins to wonder: is Truth really buried in a grave? The parable openly declares once and for all that man’s very existence is founded upon the tomb in which Truth is imprisoned. Man prevails only because Truth lies buried … But who is truly concerned?

According to the parable, man owes his existence to mercy. In Mezbizh it was held that in this world love and compassion took precedence over Truth. One must be ready to forgo veracity for the sake of mercy. There was only one reality: the good. What was good existed, what was evil was merely an illusion, a shadow of the good. In Kotzk it was believed that as long as man was false, his mercy, his goodness were illusions, a mocker, mere shadows.

The Kotzker knew that Truth lies buried, stifled in the grave, yet it remains alive. Truth wants to emerge, but man does not permit its appearance. Man’s structures stand like a mausoleum on the grave of Truth, preventing it from reaching its head. Actually, deep in every soul there is a longing to embrace Truth, but it has ceased to be felt. Nor do many people seem to care.

The Kotzker cared. He lived in consternation, always aware of the chasm separating man from Truth. A resounding cry went forth from Kotzk, and Jews were stirred.

TRUTH IS IN THE GRAVE
Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel

A PASSION FOR TRUTH
Year: 1973

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