Holy Days Align

The Register Guard (Eugene, OR), October 7, 2005 | Go to article overview
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Holy Days Align

Byline: Jeff Wright The Register-Guard

As a Jew, Rabbi Maurice Harris knows something about fasting - a spiritual practice observed each year on the day of Yom Kippur.

As a Muslim, Abdullah Al Hemyare definitely knows something about fasting - the spiritual practice observed each year during the month of Ramadan.

Most years, Jews and Muslims fast at different times. But in a lunar convergence some are calling God's October Surprise, the Jewish High Holy Days and the Muslim season of Ramadan have converged this year.

A national group, Tent of Abraham - embracing Judaism, Christianity and Islam, the three world religions tied to the Old Testament prophet of Abraham - has called on religious leaders from all three faiths to come together during this "sacred season" to preach the gospel of cooperation and social justice.

Locally, that coming together will happen Saturday when Al Hemyare, a member of the Abu-Bakr As-Siddiq mosque in Eugene, talks about fasting and other spiritual aspects of Ramadan at Temple Beth Israel, home to Eugene's largest Jewish congregation.

Harris said he extended the invitation to Al Hemyare in part out of concern about the war and strife that continues to plague the world, often in the name of religion.

"We are branches of the same spiritual tradition, and if we can't find ways to complement each other and coexist peacefully, people will rightfully question if what we've contributed to the world is a net gain or net loss," he said.

Harris emphasized that this is an important time in all three religions: Many Christians celebrated World Communion Day last Sunday, and the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi on Tuesday.

Rosh Hashana, the start of the Jewish month of Tishrei, began at sundown Monday, and Ramadan commenced on Tuesday. Yom Kippur begins at sundown next Wednesday.

The Jewish and Muslim holy months coincide every 33 years. The reason is that the Jewish lunar calendar inserts a 13th month into its cycle every three years; the Muslim calendar, however, follows a strictly lunar schedule of a 354-day year, without regard to specific seasons or agricultural harvests.

Al Hemyare said he shares Harris' view that their religions are more alike than different.

"In the Quran, there's a special respect for people of the book - the Jews and Christians," he said. "Our practices are different, but the Ten Commandments are the same. As Muslims, we believe in Moses and Abraham and Jesus; if we don't, we're not Muslims."

Muslims practice fasting, one of the five pillars of Islam, between sunrise and sunset every day of Ramadan. The abstention includes not only food but also drink, smoking and sexual relations.

"It's to get rid of the baggage you've gathered through the year," said Al Hemyare.

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