This week’s missile attacks on Israel brings to the fore yet again the simmering forces haunting the world for the last few decades: Muslim extremism and the dangers of distorted religious passions.
Here is a sermon (first published two years ago) addressing the November 2017 tragic terrorist attack in New York City, killing 8 and injuring 11, which gleans vital lessons from our Torah portion to deal with these challenges.
As soon as we heard that last year’s attacker, Sayfullo Habibullaevic Saipov, was shouting Allahu Akbar, everyone knew what those chilling words mean: Yet another fanatic murdering innocent people in the name of his god; wreaking destruction against what these extremists call “infidels” and the “decadent West.”
This latest atrocity, among the many past ones, reignites the fears many of us have of religion and Islam in particular. It sparks the debate: What should our attitude be to this obscene religiosity and what should be done? What does Judaism tell us about relating to people of other faiths – the so-called “infidels”?
Eerily, these issues are rooted in this week’s Torah portion, where we read the saga of Abraham, Ishmael – the ancestor of the Arab/Muslim world – and Isaac, a story which reflects the ongoing events of our times.
In some ways one can say that Abraham got us into this mess in the first place. Had Abraham not taken his famous trek to Israel some 3800 years ago, the entire landscape of the Middle East might look very different today.
And if Abraham got us into this, perhaps he can get us out. So let us today revisit Abraham, “the father of many nations,” for some wise counsel and answers to such provocative questions as:
- How does “religious selfishness” harm religion?
- Why is greeting guests greater than greeting G-d?
- How can we change our destiny?
- Does G-d share in our suffering, or does He remain aloof, beyond it all?
- How can we go on the offensive against terrorism?
- What is the best antidote to fear?
The story of Abraham provides us with clarity and direction as we face the troubling issues of our times.
When wondering how to treat “infidels” – Abraham is the address to visit. Imagine what the world would be like if all the children of Abraham simply followed his guidelines for life and co-existence?