February 14, 2005

Jerusalem in Judaism and Islam - Some differences

From Answer.com - interesting differences on Jerusalem


Synagogues face Jerusalem

When the Jews were exiled from their land, first by the Babylonian Empire about 2,500 years ago and then by the Roman Empire 2,000 years ago, the great rabbis and scholars of the mishnah and Talmud instituted the policy that each synagogue should replicate the original ancient Jewish temple and that it be constructed in such a way that all prayers in the siddur (prayer book) be recited while facing Jerusalem, as that is where the ancient temple stood and it was the only permissible place of the sacrificial offerings.

Thus synagogues in Europe face south; synagogues in North America face east, countries to the south of Israel, such as Yemen or South Africa face north; and those to the east of Israel, face west. Even when in private prayer and not in a synagogue, a Jew would have to face Jerusalem as mandated by Jewish law compiled by the rabbis in the Shulkhan Arukh. In a secular age, this may be hard to grasp, but during all the centuries and millennia when the majority of the Jewish people were practicing Judaism, and those who still do so to this day, the very "existence" of Jerusalem is not just a key "place" in the world, but is also the "center" of religious experiences, constantly reinforced by prayers and rituals.

Daily Prayers mention Jerusalem

The daily prayers, over the last two thousand years recited by religious Jews three times a day mentions Jerusalem and its functions multiple times. Some examples from the siddur and the amidah are:

(Addressing God): "And to Jerusalem, your city, may you return in compassion, and may you rest within it, as you have spoke. May you rebuild it soon in our days as an eternal structure, and may you speedily establish the throne of (King) David within it. Blessed are you God, the builder of Jerusalem...May our eyes behold Your return to Zion in compassion. Blessed are you God, who restores his presence to Zion."

Blessings including Jerusalem

Additionally when partaking of a daily meal with bread, the following is part of the required "Grace After Meals" which must be recited:
"Have mercy Lord our God, on Israel your people, on Jerusalem your city, on Zion the resting place of your glory, on the monarchy of (King David) your anointed, and on the great and holy (Temple) house upon which your name is called...Rebuild Jerusalem, the holy city, soon in our days. Blessed are you God who rebuilds Jerusalem in his mercy, amen."

When partaking of a light meal, the thanksgiving blessing states:
"...Have mercy, Lord, our God, on Israel, your people; on Jerusalem, your city; and on Zion, the resting place of your glory; upon your altar, and upon your temple. Rebuild Jerusalem, the city of holiness, speedily in our days. Bring us up into it and gladden us in its rebuilding and let us eat from its fruit and be satisfied with its goodness and bless you upon it in holiness and purity. For you, God, are good and do good to all and we thank you for the land and for the nourishment..."

Mourning recalls Jerusalem

The saddest fast-day on the Jewish religious calendar is the Ninth of Av when Jews traditionally spent the day crying for the loss of their two Holy Temples and the destruction of Jerusalem. This major (24 hour) fast is preceded on the calendar by two minor dawn to dusk fast days, the Tenth of Tevet mourning for the time Babylonia laid siege to the First Temple, and for the tragedy of the Seventeenth of Tammuz when Rome broke through the outer walls of the Second Temple.

The words used when Jews console any mourner during the customary Seven Days of Mourning are: "May God comfort you among all the mourners for Zion and Jerusalem"

Remembrances of Jerusalem

There was even an ancient custom to leave a patch near the entrance to one's home unpainted as a remembrance of the destruction (zecher lechurban), of the temples and Jerusalem. The sacredness of Jerusalem has never lapsed for Jews and Judaism, and this is illustrated by the fact that Jews consider the Temple Mount to be sacred ground to the very present as it is remembered and acknowledged as the exact spot of the Holy Temples.


Muslims traditionally regard Jerusalem as having a special religious status, partly because of its link with people regarded as Prophets of Islam - particularly David, Solomon, and Jesus - and partly because it was the first qibla (direction of prayer) in Islam before Makka, but also because the "farthest Mosque" (al-masjid al-Aqsa) in verse (17:1) of the Qur'an is traditionally interpreted by Muslims as referring to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, on which the mosque of that name now stands:
سبحان الذي أسرى بعبده ليلاً من المسجد الحرام إلى المسجد الأقصى الذي باركنا حوله
Glory to (Allah) Who did take His servant for a Journey by night from the Sacred Mosque to the farthest Mosque, whose precincts We did bless (Yusuf Ali's translation)

On that night, the night of the Isra and Mi'raj (Rajab 27), Muhammad is believed to have been taken by the flying steed Buraq to visit Jerusalem, and thence heaven, in a single night. Many Muslims celebrate its anniversary with gatherings and feasting, although Wahhabis and several other groups take the position that no regular festivals are permissible except the two Eids.

Several hadiths refer to Jerusalem (Bayt al-Maqdis) as the place where all mankind will be gathered on the Day of Judgement.

Me: Notice the name in the Hadith? Sound like anything from Judaism? Bayt al-Maqdis = Beit HaMikdash (the Jewish Temple). Also, David and Solomon as prophets of Islam? Hmmmm. Yet they deny any Jewish claim to the city. How very odd.

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