September 6, 2013

From: Mohammed Rafiq Lodhia
To: Jewish Friends & Colleagues
Dated: September 6, 2013

My Dear Jewish Friends,

At the beginning of Jewish New Year, my heart never misses to strike a chord of fellowship with my Jewish friends, and why not? “With Much Admiration” were the three simple words written by Arthur Greenberg (May G-d rest his soul in peace) of Baltic Linen Company when I first started my business career as a textile salesman in New York City back in the later part of 1970s. With the same spirit of admiration, I would like to mention that one of the ten answers which impressed me the most about the question, “Why I am a Jew,” was given by Dennis Prager, a syndicated columnist, author, and public speaker known for his conservative political and social views based upon his Judeo-Christian belief. His answer was as follows:

“Judaism is uniquely preoccupied with good and evil. I have the utmost
respect for Christians as the people who made America the greatest
country in world history. But their religions are concerned mainly with
faith and salvation, and Islam is focused on submission to Allah. Both
groups theologically divide the world into the faithful – “dar al-Islam”
in Islam and “saved” in Christianity – and the unfaithful. Judaism, by
contrast, divides the world according to moral categories: those who do
good and those who do evil. Thus, as the Torah tells us, “the good of all
the nations have a portion in the world to come.”

“Acquaintances” and “Experiences” are two wonderful books which I read as a young man. One of the world’s greatest historians, Professor Arnold J. Toynbee, (May G-d rest his soul in peace) the author of these two books opined that, “Human nature has in it an inherent vein of abominable wickedness; but then it also has in it an inherent vein of lovable goodness too.” It is my good fortune that I got somewhat involved in reading a few sophisticated books at an early age, which greatly influenced my thought process. Another important thing which I have always remembered was, an anonymous quote which was handwritten by my beloved father Noor Mohammed Lodhia (May G-d rest his soul in peace), in one of his letters. It read as follows:

I shall pass through this world but once. Any good, therefore, that I can
do or any kindness I can show to any human being, let me do it now. Let
me not defer or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.

Living in New York City from 1971 through 1981 gave me lots of insights about life. Working as a delivery boy in Sarge’s Delicatessen, serving as an executive waiter at Morgan Stanley, and finally having to learn the warp and weft of the textile trade along with my beloved father who set one shining example of “People of the Book” working in complete harmony to grow their mutual businesses. Edward Hedaya of Hedaya Brothers and C. Maria Joseph of C. Swaminatha Mudaliar & Sons of Madurai, India (May G-d rest their souls in peace) and my father were solely responsible for promoting Indian Handloom Textile Industry products in the United States of America. Today, two sons of Mr. Joseph, that is, M. Britto and Charles Joseph are selling to Wal-Mart stores with pride.

Maria Joseph

 

People of the Book – C. Maria Joseph, Edward Hedaya & Noor Mohammed Lodhia

Acquiring the habit of reading led me to indulge in writing which eventually led to my fondness of calligraphy. Of course, reading books by Toynbee prompted me to follow the wisdom in Ibn Khaldun’s magnum opus, Al-Muqaddimah. Professor Toynbee expressed great admiration for Ibn Khaldun (May G-d rest his soul in peace) and respected him as the first philosopher of history to have produced the magnificent work on social science to come from the human mind. Being exposed early on to all such splendid literary works along with my love for books and pen, I finally joined “The Arts Student League of New York. During my time there, a Jewish calligraphy teacher, Martin D. Oberstein taught me the art of calligraphy. “Writing is the outlining and shaping of letters to indicate audible words which, in turn, indicate what is in the soul,” cautioned Ibn Khaldun. Now what lingers in my mind and my soul is the following:

Injustice2

Rabbi Jacob Bernard Agus (May G-d rest his soul in peace) of Beth El Congregation in Baltimore and distinguished Hebrew scholar wrote in his book “Dialogue and Tradition, that the religious enlightenment grows out of religious deeds – NASSE VENISHMA (“we shall do and we shall heed”). Well then, are the people hailing from the “Abrahamic Faith” adhering to the commandments of Almighty G-d? Dennis Prager appropriately answers, “just as people need an instruction manual for a camera, they need an instruction manual on how to lead a good, holy and meaningful life. Judaism provides the best one ever written: the Torah.” May I humbly add, the best one ever to be re-mentioned also in the Holy Bible and Holy Quran too.

Bernard Lewis, a British-American historian in his book, “What went wrong?” warns us that “usually the lessons of history are most perspicuously and unequivocally taught on the battlefield, but there may be some delay before the lesson is understood and applied.” “Some delay” is quite an understatement by all counts. There has been a prolonged delay as all the warring parties in the Middle Eastern countries have yet to comprehend the true meaning of Nasse Venishma (“we shall do and we shall heed”). The most important question for the New Year should be “Who is following and who is understanding Almighty G-d’s commandments which are clearly outlined in Torah, Bible and Quran?”

It has been said that history repeats itself, but certainly that is not the case as all three people belonging to the “Abrahamic Faith” wholly lost the spirit of collaboration that guided the following enlightened leaders: President Jimmy Carter, late Prime Minister Menachem Begin and President Anwar El-Sadat. (May G-d rest their soul in peace). They were what one can term as “Blessed Peacemakers, who should be considered as the finest representation of gentlemen possessing “True Grit.

Sadat1

President Anwar el-Sadat, President Jimmy Carter & Prime Minister Menachem Begin

“Toward a Just and Compassion Society – A Jewish View” an article published in Cross Current magazine (Summer 1995), Byron L. Sherwin, Vice President for Academic Affairs at the Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies in Chicago, expounded a thoughtful statement as follows:

“A society without justice leads to moral anarchy and destruction.
A society where justice is perverted is endangered. Justice tends to
follow the rule of law, the rule of reason. Compassion tends to follow
the rule of the heart. One needs to know not only when to temper
law and justice with compassion, but also when to go beyond the
limits of the law, beyond the strict dictates of justice, to do what
is right. This is the role of righteousness which is wedged between
justice and compassion.”

Never mind the words, “Justice” and “Compassion.” “Righteousness” is seldom practiced nowadays; however, it is strangely justified by misinterpretation of the Holy Books of G-d, be it Torah, Bible or Quran. Silence of all the wise “People of the Book” have contributed to so much pain, agony and bloodshed to such an extent that even ordinary humans are left absolutely dumbfounded. International media remain sharply focused only on the evil deeds of “Ruthless Muslim Terrorists, but hardly ever there is an earnest attempt to play the documentary of Renegade Israeli Settlers. Intentionally such news are not being reported in the U.S. national media.

“Conscience is not the voice of G-d, it is the gift of G-d,” so goes the saying. One is left wondering as to what happened to this particular gift of G-d which seems to be missing in this modern day world. It is quite apparent that the Jewish and Christian political and religious leaders are tactfully supporting the mayhem in the name of “Security” only for the State of Israel; whereas, the relentless “Jihad” conducted against the “People of the Book” are being silently encouraged, supported and financed by the Muslim kings, tyrants and terrorist leaders. All these repulsive and immoral acts are nothing but an outright disobedience of one of the commandments of Almighty G-d: “Thou Shalt Not Kill, and to this, I would like to add, “Thou Shalt Not Persecute, be they Coptic Christians or Palestinians. The truth of the matter is that, the respectable and honorable people living in the Middle Eastern countries are held “Hostage” by the “Terrorists & Settlers” who are forcefully implementing their own “Man-Made Rules” and vehemently defying “Almighty G-d’s Law.

Billions of dollars are poured into the Iron Dome to protect Israeli citizens which is truly understandable given that the terrorist groups like Hamas and Hezbollah are not only merciless, but also hell-bent to wipe out Israel. By merely glancing at the map it would be unwise to think that surrounded by 383 million Muslims, all are irrational beings and out to eliminate the nation of Israel setting aside the pathetic rhetoric of the Iranian leaders. One of the opinions of Dennis Prager in “Why I am a Jew, is definitely out of context when he claims that, “If we are not the Chosen People, there is little compelling reason to raise one’s children as Jews. After Auschwitz, and with significant parts of the Muslim world today advocating another Holocaust, it takes a powerful reason to do so.” Intellectuals like Mr. Prager somehow tend to completely forget that it was neither the Muslims nor the Palestinians that were responsible for the Holocaust.

 

Israel

On the flip side, there are many Muslims who are living under the impression that Israel armed with all the American weapons has caused an immense imbalance of power in the Middle East region. Peaceful intention or not, even Iran fears that Israel could strike with all its might, therefore, they are also arming themselves to counter attack. In other words, it is not the hype of Holocaust, but rather an unstoppable arms race that will annihilate one another sooner or later. This is sheer madness, and ultimately, it will be America that will go bankrupt by spending billions to support its armament industry, and not to mention, by endlessly continuing its “War on Terror.” “Muslim Terrorist Groups” are by far one of the biggest buyers in the world for arms and ammunitions from the western world. Muslims are busy killing their fellow Muslims and that is one of the greatest tragedies of our times. A brutal despot in Syria has already killed more than hundreds and thousands of his own people without showing any remorse for his barbaric actions.

Looking at the bright side, American Jewish intellectual leaders must be thrilled to watch the “Tamarod” revolution which is taking place in Egypt. Dr. Alaa Al Aswamy, a Cairo dentist by day and novelist by dawn, when asked in an interview by Karen M. Kostyal of National Geographic (September 2006), “Where would you put the Egyptian character, since you have a history thousands of years old?,” Dr. Aswamy befittingly answered as follows:

“We have been influenced by many cultures over the past 8,000 years.
This has enriched the Egyptian personality. You can still even feel the
pharaonic filament in our character. It makes us more peaceful and
open than other people of the Arab world. It’s almost impossible for
Egypt to become fanatic. There will always be Egyptians who say no
to this. We will never be like Iran.”

Amen to this discerning statement by a concerned Egyptian, my friends. Mind you that the year was 2006 when the interview took place, and now the same exact opinion is all the more unanimous after the fall of Muslim Brotherhood from power. Religious fanatics living in our midst must now be fearlessly confronted, and likewise, the battle hungry leaders must also be questioned by their own people. Egyptian peoples’ revolution is nothing but a historic one for many Middle Eastern observers. The sentiment “We will never be like Iran” is spread out far and wide in Egypt. Rule by “Theocracy” will not at all be tolerated by the younger generation of Egyptians and rightly so. Witnessing the crushing of the so-called “Green Revolution” by the “Iranian Ayatollahs” have been more than enough of a history lesson to learn from.

Many of our fellow Americans are unaware that just like the misguided Muslim preachers, who brainwash the young Muslims in the Islamic countries against Jews and Christians in their Madrassahs, in similar manner, the lessons taught to young Christians in the Southern Baptist Churches is that G-d meant all Judea and Samarai to be in the hands of Israel. Listen to President Bill Clinton very attentively in the YouTube video. His remarks are an eye-opener for many of us.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech before Christian’s United for Israel expressed his concern in two words: numbers count. They sure do, but not when a tiny nation is a nuclear country abundantly armed with the latest technologically developed armaments provided by the United States of America. Six million of Israelis must no longer take pride in defying the laws of history as it was brought to light by the famous American historian named Will Durant (May God rest his soul in peace), but instead must ponder over the leadership qualities of Prophet Moses (Peace Be Upon Him). Interestingly, as a sales and marketing man, I was able to search through an article titled, Seven Lessons on Leadership from the first CEO – Moses. The writer, Elaine Fogel, highlighted one of the leadership features as “Persevere” by stating that “Moses” marketed freedom to the slaves with his vision of a “Promised Land” that flows with milk and honey. Then why can’t the thoughtful political and religious leaders of Israel teach the Arab countries that “Brains Not Bullets” is the way to build a respectable and progressive nation, which will be admired by many. Prime Minister Netanyahu in his speech also mentioned that, “we’ve defended ourselves time after time against much larger enemies,” but I wonder if he and his associates in his own cabinet reflected upon the words of Professor Toynbee in chapter, “War: Changes in its Character and in People’s Attitude, of his book titled, “Experiences” (1969) as follows:

“The Israelis have been the victorious party in three successive Arab-
Israeli wars; their victory in the third of these wars has been the most
swift and the most sensational of the three; and victors are seldom in
the mood for making concessions; a dazzling series of victories is apt
to blind the victors to the truth that military victory is a wasting asset.
Thus the very brilliance of Israel’s military performance hitherto has
become a serious psychological obstacle to her attainment of her
objective. This sounds paradoxical, but it is the truth.”

Professor Toynbee looked at “The Jewish of the Diaspora” to help awaken the religious spirit which he considered as one of the greatest needs of mankind. In referring to Toynbee’s conception of “Creative Function Of Minorities, Rabbi Jacob Bernard Agus emphasized upon the most profound fact which he described in his book as follows:

“Humanity rises in the scale of culture through the labors of minorities,
who react to the challenge of partial displacement from the general
society by projecting a higher level of civilization, in which they can be
at home along with the rest of humanity. Thus, we are bidden to think
of the Jewish group as a “creative minority” in behalf of those ideals
and instruments that make for a better world.”

“J” stands for “Jewish, it stands for “Justice, and it also stands for “Judgment. Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel (May G-d rest his soul in peace), in his book “The Prophets” pronounced that “Justice is scarce, injustice is exceedingly common. True indeed. This striking statement draws my attention to a report prepared for the American Friends Service Committee back in the year 1981, wherein, it was documented that Israeli control of West Bank education has been arbitrary and at times punitive. It has interfered with the educational and intellectual needs of the Palestinian residents. In this particular report, Sahar Khalifeh, a Bir Zeit instructor who expressed her utmost grievances in a seminar sponsored by the International Writers Program at the University of Iowa in the year 1978. She had this to say:

“Tension inside, tension outside … You feel you are in a whirlpool, a
whirlwind, a pressure cooker … Occupation, demonstrations, news,
trials, prisons, demolished houses, demolished souls. Taxes … a new
devaluation, a new settlement there, tomorrow they’ll build a new
one here. Where shall I go then? To whom shall I protest?”

“To Whom Shall I Protest?” Imagine that this very statement was given in the year 1978! Today, we are in the 21st century. Thirty-five years later, the “Justice” has still not been done to the Palestinian people. We all are acutely aware that the expansion of “New Settlements” is in full gear in Jerusalem al-Quds. My mind is usually confined only to think about “What Went Wrong?” within the Islamic countries, but now I am more than compelled to think in terms of “What Went Wrong?” inside Israel. Sadly, brave and bold leaders like Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin (May G-d rest his soul in peace) are no longer around to guide the State of Israel. Honorable Noble Laureate President Shimon Peres turned 90 years, and now considered as the world’s oldest “Head of State” is committed to make the world better, but not to remember the past better. I beg to differ with these sentiments owing to my wholehearted endorsement of Rabbi Agus’s judicious verdict, “If there is one single insight into the long history of our people that is incontrovertible, it is that for us faith and fate are mysteriously one and indissoluble. This is the one valid, vital core of the doctrine of the “Chosen People. Whatever is morally and spiritually true is also practically and politically wise.”

My dear friends, we must always think of the past. The beginning of New Year is actually a good time to sum up the lessons of the past. Even though the lessons are bitter, however, Jews, Christians and Muslims must collectively contribute to the betterment of humankind provided that “Good Desire” (Yezer Tov) always remain at the forefront of our minds while resolving conflicts of all nature, and at the same time, to shun “Evil Desire” (Yezer Hora) whenever it crosses our minds. My wishes are that the “Moses People” with so much of rich religious heritage and grueling experiences of persecutions throughout their history must play a leading role in seeking peaceful solution to the Middle East crisis.

Finally, I know that I have stretched this letter a bit too long; nevertheless, it is time to say, “Shana Tova Umetukah” to you and your loved ones. May the coming New Year be blessed and a peaceful one. Let’s pray that it will make all the beloved members of your family healthier and wiser.

May Almighty G-d bless Israel, Egypt and all the Arab countries.

“With Much Admiration, I remain,

Compassionately yours,

Mohammed Rafiq Lodhia

_________________________________________________________________________________

G-D IS AT STAKE

Why should religion, the essence of which is worship of G-d, put such stress on justice for man? Does not the preoccupation with morality tend to divest religion of immediate devotion to G-d? Why should a worldly virtue like justice be so important to the Holy One of Israel? Did not the prophets overrate the worth of justice?

Perhaps, the answer lies here: righteousness is not just a value; it is G-d’s part of human life, G-d’s stake in human history. Perhaps it is because the suffering of man is a blot upon G-d’s conscience; because it is in relations between man and man that Go-d is at stake. Or is it simply because the infamy of a wicked act is infinitely greater than we are able to imagine? People act as they please, doing what is vile, abusing the weak, not realizing that they are fighting G-d, affronting the divine, or that the oppression of man is a humiliation of G-d.

He who oppresses a poor man insults His Maker,
He who is kind to the needy honors Him.

Proverbs 14:31; cf. 17.5

The universe is done. The greater masterpiece still undone, still in the process of being created, is history. For accomplishing His grand design, G-d needs the help of man. Man is and has the instrument of G-d, which he may or may not use in consonance with the grand design. Life is clay, and righteousness the mold in which G-d wants history to be shaped. But human beings, instead of fashioning the clay, deform the shape.

The world is full of iniquity, of injustice and idolatry. The people offer animals; the priests offer incense. But G-d needs mercy, righteousness; His needs cannot be satisfied in the temples, in space, but only in history, in time. It is within the realm of history that man is charged with God’s mission.

Justice is not an ancient custom, a human convention, a value, but a transcendent demand, freighted with divine concern. It is not only a relationship between man and man, it is an act involving G-d, a divine need. Justice is His line, righteousness His plummet (Isa. 28:17). It is not one of His ways, but in all His ways. Its validity is not only universal, but also eternal, independent of will and experience.

People think that to be just is a virtue, deserving honor and rewards; that in doing righteousness one confers a favor on society. No one expects to receive a reward for the habit of breathing. Justice is as much a necessity as breathing is, and a constant occupation.

Rabbi Abraham J. Heschel (May G-d rest his soul in peace)
THE PROPHETS

THE JEWISH PUBLICATION SOCIETY OF AMERICA
Year: 1962

_________________________________________________________________________________

WAR – CHANGE IN ITS CHARACTER AND IN PEOPLE’S ATTITUDE

In this frustrating strategic situation the United States and Israel have both been handicapped by the inhibiting psychological effect of their past unbroken series of victories. The mood that had been produced in the minds of both nations by this record of previously continuous military success was making it hard for them both, in 1968, to do what they had to do in order to attain their true objectives. The obstacles that has stood in their way has been an irrelevant reluctance to reconcile themselves in facing the unwelcome possibility that, this time, victory might be beyond their reach and that the renunciation of the luxury of continuing to be “ever victorious” might be the price that they would have to pay for achieving their major objective.

Israel has one major objective that overrides all others because, if she fails to obtain this one, she will not be able permanently to survive. Israel cannot achieve security unless and until she can persuade the Arabs to accept the fact of her existence – and this bona fide, in their hearts and not just in words typed on a scrap of paper. Israel has to persuade the Arabs to live side by side with her as friendly neighbours. She will not be able to persuade them to do this unless and until she has convinced them that she intends to reciprocate, with equal good faith, by behaving as a good neighbour towards them, and even if she does not convince them, it will be hard for the Arabs to bring themselves to make peace, since the Arabs are the injured party. To make peace will, however, be hard for the Israelis too, though in their case for a very different reason. The Israelis have been the victorious party in three successive Arab-Israeli wars; their victory in the third of these wars has been the most swift and the most sensational of the three; and victors are seldom in the mood for making concessions; a dazzling series of victories is apt to blind the victors to the truth that military victory is a wasting asset. Thus the very brilliance of Israel’s military performance hitherto has become a serious psychological obstacle to her attainment of her objective. This sounds paradoxical, but it is the truth.”

Arnold J. Toynbee (May G-d rest his soul in peace)
EXPERIENCES

OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS
Year: 1969

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