Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Shabbat Services

Having basically gone AWOL from JAM for the past few weeks, I figured it would be a good idea to at least attend the Shabbat services and, due to my recently increasing affinity towards the Slifka Dining Hall, the dinner afterwards. So Usama, Umar, and I walked down to Slifka and met Jeremy and Jason who proceeded to take us upstairs and began explaining how the services would go. The best way to learn something is to actually experience it, and I feel that I learned a lot from just having two people explain in their own words how a religious service goes. We took a quick tour through the prayer book that was to be used, and the requirements for the service were explained. We also got to look at an authentic Torah, which I had certainly never seen before. I had always thought it was a book, but was surprised to see that (and bear with me here) first of all, it was a scroll; secondly, so much care and work went into producing one; and finally the level of respect it was given. It reminded me a lot of how Muslims respect the Qur'an.

The service itself was very interesting. And although I was a relatively ignorant observer, not once did I feel uncomfortable or unwelcome. People kept telling me when the page was switched and where they were and so on. It was on the whole, a rather enjoyable experience, although I wasn't taking active part in it. Unfortunately, we left about 20 minutes into the service proper to pray to pray our own evening prayer, Maghrib. The three of us shuffled out as discreetly as possible and began looking for a suitable place to pray as the echoes of the service began to fade behind us. We came to a seemingly unused room and found a corner with some space, laid down our jackets, and proceeded to begin prayer. At that point I noticed that there was another Shabbat service taking place in the room beneath us. It didn't bother us though, because we had to pray, and had already found a nice spot. Usama lead the prayer, and I strained to hear his voice over both services.

Halfway into the third rak'ah, however, I had the epiphany that there were essentially three prayers in Slifka all calling out to the same God. What at first seemed to be a cacophony of Arabic and Hebrew, became a melodious mixture of the two prayers when I realized that despite the social, political, and ideological strife between the adherents of our faiths, and despite our traditions, our modes of worship, and our cultures, we are all essentially the same. For me, prayer has always been a direct connection to God during which I am conscious of Him peering into my essence. At that moment, it felt as if all of us, Jews and Muslims, stood before God, open as books, humbled before Him. I felt a bond of human brotherhood on a place deeper than race, nationality, or even the earthly manifestations of religion.

Given that the conflict between Israel and Palestine is primarily a political rather than a religious one, I think that we can only really begin to understand each other though religion rather than history. And if we look at all the conflicts today between people who claim to be of two such faiths, it should be apparent that such a conflict over the most base of material things, land, is truly superficial when compared to our common spirituality. If only the war-mongers, the legislators, and the ignorant could be blessed with such a an experience and come to this realization. Perhaps then we could move towards each other to achieve a lasting peace between two not-so-different peoples.

1 comment:

JAM-uslim said...

karmakula- I really enjoyed reading your post. It seems so true that if we all just pause for a second and truly think about what we are doing when we pray, then all of the animosities and ill feelings just seem to vanish. Truly we indeed pray before the same God and have the sincerity and consciousness that He is watching all of us, not just Muslims, and not just Jews.
For in the end, we are all praying to him, asking for the same things, making the same prayers for our families, for good grades, etc. etc.