News

    Jewish High Holidays and the Muslim Holy Month of Ramadan Coincide This Year

    Wednesday evening September 12th marks the beginning of the Jewish New Year, or Rosh haShana. It's the start of a ten-day period of reflection, repentance and celebration that climaxes on the Day of Atonement, or Yom Kippur. This year, the Jewish High Holidays coincide with Ramadan, the Muslim holy month of daylong fasts that mark the giving of the Qur'an to Mohammed.

    While the two religions differ in important ways, these two Abrahamic faiths do share significant common themes of repentance and renewal.

    On Rosh haShana, the holiday which commemorates God's creation of the world and the beginning of the Jewish New Year, no sound evokes the sense of joy and high seriousness like the shofar, a ram's horn trumpet the ancient Hebrews once use to herald a king's arrival. At Rosh haShana, the shofar's blast is used to announce the presence of "The King of Kings" — God.

    According to Rabbi Yitzhak Rosenbaum of the National Jewish Outreach Program, Judaism holds that God judges all people on Rosh haShanah for their actions during the previous year and decrees their fate for the year to come. As such, says Rosenbaum, the shofar's blast calls Jews to reflect and repent, to search their hearts, and to take an unblinking look at their behavior.

    "The shofar demands that you ask of yourself 'How have you treated your fellow person? Your neighbor? How have you treated your children? How have you treated your teachers, your employers and your employees?'" Rosenbaum says.

    It also asks Jews to reflect on how well they have followed God's commandments that relate to Him, Rosenbaum says, "whether it's in terms of prayer, of religious actions, of observing the holidays. Have I accomplished the goals God has set out for me and that I have set out for myself?"

    Judaism says that it is only by taking full responsibility for one's actions, and re-dedicating oneself to a moral life, that one can truly begin a new year.

    The central Jewish concept of divine cleansing and renewal is also found in Islam. During Ramadan, for example, which begins this week, Muslims follow a ritual of repentance and spiritual purification in order to inspire God's mercy. Rabbi Rosenbaum calls it "a beautiful idea."

    The hopefulness of this message is an occasion for festive meals in both Judaism and Islam. Apples dipped in honey "for a sweet year" are a traditional Rosh haShana treat, and Muslims enjoy special pastries and other sweets when ending their Ramadan fasts.

    This year, Alison Alpert, a traditional Jew with many Muslim friends, is choosing to merge these and other rituals. "There is something wonderful about different religions learning each other's traditions, because there's a tremendous amount of overlap," she says.

    This Rosh haShana Alpert plans to be with her family and a friend from India. "And she usually brings some Indian sweet because it's near the end of the Indian new year of Diwali. So we get to have a little Diwali with our Ramadan and Rosh haShana!"

    While food plays a role in the observances, abstaining from food and other physical pleasures is the focus on Yom Kippur. In Judaism as in Islam, fasting is intended to teach believers about self-control, and the authority of the spirit over the body.

    In both religions, the entire community fasts and prays together. This underscores a core belief in both faiths that everyone is equal before God. Indeed, every year at Yom Kippur, Rachael Erlichman, an Orthodox Jew, is reminded that the Jewish high holidays commemorate the birth of the entire world, and that redemption is possible for everyone.

    "Everyone is the same, everyone is equal. If you are poor or rich, we all come as a servant of God. There is no one better or worse." She adds that in synagogue "we are all praying to the same God and we are all praying for the same thing. And what we wish for ourselves we wish on other people, everyone in the world, that this should be a good year for everyone."

    A hint of the peace and harmony implied by both Jewish and Muslim observances could once be found in a tradition shared by Muslims and Jews in Morocco. For hundreds of years, Jews would bring their Muslim friends the "first bread" with which to break their final Ramadan fast. In turn, Muslims would bring their Jewish neighbors their first taste of leavened bread when the Passover festival had ended.

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Press Freedom in Myanmar Fragile, Limitedi
    X
    Katie Arnold
    May 04, 2016 12:31 PM
    As Myanmar begins a new era with a democratically elected government, many issues of the past confront the new leadership. Among them is press freedom in a country where journalists have been routinely harassed or jailed.
    Video

    Video Press Freedom in Myanmar Fragile, Limited

    As Myanmar begins a new era with a democratically elected government, many issues of the past confront the new leadership. Among them is press freedom in a country where journalists have been routinely harassed or jailed.
    Video

    Video Taliban Threats Force Messi Fan to Leave Afghanistan

    A young Afghan boy, who recently received autographed shirts and a football from his soccer hero Lionel Messi, has fled his country due to safety concerns. He and his family are now taking refuge in neighboring Pakistan. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from Islamabad.
    Video

    Video Major Rubbish Burning Experiment Captures Destructive Greenhouse Gases

    The world’s first test to capture environmentally harmful carbon dioxide gases from the fumes of burning rubbish took place recently in Oslo, Norway. The successful experiment at the city's main incinerator plant, showcased a method for capturing most of the carbon dioxide. VOA’s Deborah Block has more.
    Video

    Video EU Visa Block Threatens To Derail EU-Turkey Migrant Deal

    Turkish citizens could soon benefit from visa-free travel to Europe as part of the recent deal between the EU and Ankara to stem the flow of refugees. In return, Turkey has pledged to keep the migrants on Turkish soil and crack down on those who are smuggling them. Brussels is set to publish its latest progress report Wednesday — but as Henry Ridgwell reports from London, many EU lawmakers are threatening to veto the deal over human rights concerns.
    Video

    Video Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Ruling

    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Painting Captures President Lincoln Assassination Aftermath

    A newly restored painting captures the moments following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. It was recently unveiled at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where America’s 16th president was shot. It is the only known painting by an eyewitness that captures the horror of that fateful night. VOA’s Julie Taboh tells us more about the painting and what it took to restore it to its original condition.
    Video

    Video Elephant Summit Results in $5M in Pledges, Presidential Support

    Attended and supported by three African presidents, a three-day anti-poaching summit has concluded in Kenya, resulting in $5 million in pledges and a united message to the world that elephants are worth more alive than dead. The summit culminated at the Nairobi National Park with the largest ivory burn in history. VOA’s Jill Craig attended the summit and has this report about the outcomes.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.
    Video

    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.
    Video

    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.
    Video

    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora