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Islam And Judaism On The Most Important Day Of God’s Week – OpEd

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Al-Jumuah is the most important day of God’s week for Muslims; just as Shabbat is the most important day of God’s week for Jews.

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The importance of jummah for Muslims comes from the Qur’an, chapter 62. Surah Jummah takes its title from the instruction to (Muslim) believers to observe Friday prayer promptly when called: “Believers! When the call to prayer is made on the day of congregation (jumu’ah), hurry towards the reminder of God and leave off your trading – that is better for you, if you only new – then when the prayer has ended, disperse in the land and seek our God’ bounty. Remember God often so that you may prosper.” (62: 9-11)

And the importance of Shabbat for Jews comes from the Ten Commandments in the Torah. The 10 Commandments are listed twice in the Torah, first in Torah Exodus and again in Torah Deuteronomy. In the Exodus version, we are told to keep Shabbat “for [in] six days the Lord made the heaven and the earth,” In Deuteronomy, we are told to commemorate that “you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and that the Lord your God took you out from there with a strong hand and with an outstretched arm.” Thus pausing to appreciate God’s creation; plus freeing oneself from the often self induced pressures of rat race stress; are the two basic outcome of Shabbat observance.

And “It (Shabbat) is a sign between Me and the children of Israel forever; for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day He ceased (paused) from activities, and was refreshed.” (Torah Exodus 31:17) “A sign between Me (God) and the children of Israel forever” means that you (Israel) can divorce yourself from God; but God will never divorce you (Israel) from Himself. As Prophet David’s Zubar states: “It is He who has made us (Jews), and not we (who made) ourselves” (Psalm 100:3)

The Biblical Book of Nehemiah states: “And if the (Jewish or non-Jewish) peoples of the land bring in goods or any grain on the Sabbath day to sell, (say) we will not buy from them on the Sabbath or on a holy day.” (Nehemiah 10:31) And the Qur’an states: “When the call to prayer is made on the day of congregation (jumu’ah), hurry towards the reminder of God; and leave off your trading”

The Torah also states specifically: “You shall not kindle a fire in any of your dwellings on the Sabbath.” (Exodus 35:3) Kindling a fire was the first God-like thing that pre-human species were able to do. God does not stop His wonderful acts of creation on Shabbat, because God is tired.

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Rather God paused creative activities in order to set an example for mankind to fully appreciate and enjoy the miracles of creation. So Shabbat stops human activities that lead to stress, in order to help us find joy, awe, beauty and contentment in our own lives.

Sabbath is a necessity, not just an obligation. Just as human’s need air, light, water, and food in order to survive, we need Shabbat to live spiritually. It is also a day of worship when Jews recognize that God is Lord. “It is He who has made us, and not we (who made) ourselves” (Psalm 100:3)

The Midrash (expanded commentary) Seder Eliyahu Rabbah says: A man who labors for six days and pauses on the Sabbath finds it possible to come closer to his children and the other members of his household. He also forgets all the vexation (stress) he has previously suffered.

This is why Prophet Isaiah states: “If you hold back your foot on Shabbat from pursuing your own interests on my holy day; if you call Shabbat a delight, the Lord’s holy day, worth honoring; then honor it by not doing your usual things or pursuing your interests or speaking about them. If you do, you will find delight in the Lord. I will make you ride on the heights of the land and feed you with the heritage of your ancestor Jacob” (Isaiah 58:13)

The rabbis say that one way to make Shabbat pleasurable is by enjoying good food and drink. Additionally, many rabbi have the practice of taking a short nap on Shabbat afternoon. Similarly, there are two ahadith in Sahih Bukhari, reported by Anas, who says they would nap after the jummah prayers. A similar narration is found in Sunan Abu Dawud from Sahl bin Sa’d.

Even some of the details of honoring Jumuah and Shabbat are the same. Prophet Muhammad said in Sahih Bukhari: Anyone of you attending the Friday (prayers) should take a bath.” And the well known Jewish Philosopher Rabbi Moses Maimonides’ code of law states: “Take a hot bath on Friday and dress in festive clothes.”

It’s an essential practice for both Islam and Judaism to regularly donate charity and especially to give money to the needy, and giving charity on the day of jummah for Muslims is greater than on any other day! Shabbat rules prohibit Jews not only from selling or buying on Shabbat but even handling money. But for educational purposes many Jews encourage their children to put coins in a charity box prior to kindling the Shabbat lights.

Prophet Muhammad said: “No Muslim dies on the day of Friday, nor the night of Friday, except that Allah protects him from the trials of the grave.” (Tirmidhi). The Talmud also states “It is a good sign for one who passes away on the Friday eve of Shabbat.” (Ketubot 103b) and the great Jewish mystic Rabbi Isaac Luria said that one who passes away on Friday is spared from pains of the body’s decomposition, because the holiness of Shabbat cleanses the soul, without it having to experience the pains of the body’s decomposition.

Taking a break from work, school and other worldly activities to attend the Friday sermon is the best way for Muslims to mark jumuah prayers. It’s not enough to just attend. Those who talk while the Imam delivers his sermon are condemned. Ibn ‘Abbas said Prophet Muhammad stated: “If anyone speaks on Friday while the imam is preaching, he is like an ass (donkey) carrying books.” (Mishkat al-Masabih); and Rabbi Bahya Ibn Pakuda said “A pretentious ignoramus is like a donkey carrying books.” The image of a donkey carrying books is given here because a pretentious ignoramus carries knowledge without benefiting from it, for merely being at the mosque for the sermon yet talking through it, leads to no benefit at all.

The Messenger said: “If anyone performs ablution, doing it well, then comes to Friday prayer, listens and keeps silence, his sins between that time and the next Friday will be forgiven.” (Sunan Abi Dawud) and Rabbi Hisda said; one who prays each Shabbat eve; his two ministering angels say to him, “your iniquity is taken away, and your sin is purged” (Isaiah 6:7)

If Muslim men are healthy and able to, and if it’s safe to, they should attend jummah every week. Not attending three jummah’s in a row due to laziness results in hardness of the heart. In this regard, Prophet Muhammad has said: “He who omits Friday prayer (continuously) for three Fridays on account of slackness, Allah will print a stamp on his heart.” (Sunan Abi Dawud)

The biggest difference between Al-Jumuah and Shabbat concerns fasting. For Muslims fasting is recommended on any day of the year (except Eid al-Fitr). The companion Abdullah ibn Masud says: I rarely saw the Messenger of Allah not fasting on a Friday.” (Sunan ibn Majah) but fasting is prohibited for Jews on Shabbat. Indeed the Jewish lunar Calendar is adjusted to make sure that the fast day of Yom Kipper does not fall on Shabbat.

A smaller but very important difference between Al-Jumuah and Shabbat is that marital sex on Shabbat was traditionally strongly encouraged for Jews, permitted for Muslims, and discouraged for Catholics and Eastern Orthodox Christians. Most Jews know that sexual activities between a husband and wife are a Mitsvah- a Jewish responsibility. Many Jews know that love making on Shabbat is a double Mitsvah. Some Jews know that the Kabbalah (the Jewish mystical tradition) teaches that the Shekeenah (feminine presence of God) rests on a Jewish man when he makes love to his Jewish wife on Shabbat.

Very few Jews know that Jewish couples who make love with an awareness that the Shekeenah is present through the wife’s love and the husbands reverence can repair fractured hopes and intentions in those around them; thus helping to elevate broken spirits both near and far. This is called a Tikun, a spiritual repair. This Tikun also enhances the spiritual bonds of their own marriage. As Rabbi Shim’on teaches in the Zohar (2:46a)

“Then (in the early morning hours) a woman unites with her husband, conversing with him, and entering his palace. This refers to all Jewish couples that engage in late night/early morning love making with the holy intention of unifying their spiritual sexual commitment to each other. Each time they enact this Tikun helps repair or elevate another relationship that is a participating part of the couple’s, especially the wife’s, relationships.

When I make love with my wife of 55 years, I always do so with the awareness of the Jewish mystical teaching about the Shekeenah- the feminine presence of God resting upon a man who makes love to his wife on Shabbat. Actually the Shekeenah can rest on a man everyday he makes love to his wife with a sense of reverence, tenderness, adoration and love. Shabbat adds holiness and chosen-ness to their feelings. The key attitude for each husband is the feeling that my wife is God’s gift, the source of my blessings, and a most wonderful manifestation of God’s holy presence in my life.

If, in addition to this attitude, a man also makes love to his wife with the intention of unifying the heavenly realm as he unifies the earthly one, he and his wife enact a great Tikun- a spiritual mending or uplifting which can also affect other people. This Tikun is woven together with similar Tikunim from other married couples into a crown for the Divine One who also unites with His Shekeenah on Shabbat. Just as the prayers proclaimed in each Synagogue are woven into a crown for the Holy One of Israel, so too are the holy unifications (Tikunim) of each married couple woven into a crown. The active intention of the husband is required to start the Tikun process, although it is the Shekeenah wife who provides the transforming energy.

As the Zohar says, “A male desiring to cling to a female emits a seed of anointing (his holy intention) from the top of his brain into his phallus; it pours into the female who thus conceives. Thus, every smooth member of his body joins the female, and the female embraces all.” (2:86a) Thus, sex on Shabbat with a Shekeenah wife embodies and radiates joyful holiness to others, elevating and inspiring them over time.

Rabbi Allen S. Maller

Allen Maller retired in 2006 after 39 years as Rabbi of Temple Akiba in Culver City, Calif. He is the author of an introduction to Jewish mysticism. God. Sex and Kabbalah and editor of the Tikun series of High Holy Day prayerbooks.

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