Ramadan and God’s Divine
Posted June 16, 2015on:
Ramadan and God’s Divine
God has a diet that is good for us both physically and spiritually; a diet described in the Torah and in the Qur’an. Over many centuries the various legal schools have developed God’s diet somewhat differently within each religion and between the religions, but the basic principle has always been retained:
“Humans should not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.”H(Deuteronomy 8:3 and Matthew 4:4)
All animals must eat to live. This is a law of nature. Most animals only –or mainly– eat plants. Some animals only eat other animals. Only a small minority of living creatures are omnivores, eating both animals and plants.
And of all omnivores, only one voluntarily restricts its diet because of a commitment to follow God’s divine diet: human beings.
I am a Reform rabbi who is a Muslim Jew. Actually, I am a Muslim Jew (a faithful Jew submitting to the will of God) because I am a Reform rabbi. As a rabbi, I am faithful to the covenant that God made with Abraham, the first Muslim Jew, and I submit to the commandments of the covenant that God made with the people of Israel at Mount Sinai. As a Reform rabbi, I believe that Jewish spiritual leaders should modify Jewish law and tradition as social and historical circumstances change and develop.
I also believe we should not make religion difficult for people to practice by adding an increasing number of restrictions to the commandments we received at Mount Sinai. During the six centuries between the birth of Jesus and the arrival of Muhammad in Yathrib (Medina), almost all Jews became Orthodox Jews. Orthodox rabbis added many extra prohibitions to Jewish law and most Jews became increasingly strict in the observance of the laws of Kashrut (dietary laws).
Orthodox Rabbis did not follow the principle of Muhammad as narrated by his wife Aisha:
“Whenever Allah’s Apostle was given the choice of one of two matters, he would choose the easier of the two as long as it was not sinful to do so. But if it was sinful to do so, he would not approach it.”
Aisha also said:
“Whenever Allah’s Apostle ordered the Muslims to do something, he used to order them to do deeds which were easy for them to do.”
These are lessons Prophet Muhammad taught 12 centuries before the rise of Reform Judaism in the early 19th century. Most Jews today are no longer Orthodox Jews. But if the Jews of Muhammad’s time had followed these teachings of his, Reform Judaism would have started 1,400 years ago. (Reform Jews, as they are referred to in North America, are called Liberal Jews in the U.K.).
Although Orthodox rabbis have greatly multiplied the Jewish dietary laws, Muslims will see they still share many values regarding dietary laws with their fellow Jews.
To be effective, as is the case with all diets, a Kosher holy diet must be followed daily. Also, as is the case with all diets, you should not become a fanatic in following this diet. Moral issues are more important than any one particular part of the diet.
As Prophet Muhammad said:
“Whoever does not give up lying and deceiving, God is in no need of his giving up food and water.” (Bukhari)
Nevertheless, like all diets and all forms of physical exercise, the more frequently you fail to stick with your Kosher holy diet, the less you will benefit from it.
Food and drink are the most important elements of animal life. But unlike all other animals, humans do not live by bread alone. The act of eating is invested with psychological and spiritual meanings. Humans, like all animals, need to eat in order to live. But unlike all other animals, some humans will not eat certain foods that other humans will gladly eat. This universal human trait proves that
“Humans do not live by bread alone, but humans may live on anything that God decrees.” (Deuteronomy 8:3)
Thus by periodically not eating at all (fasting), Jews, Muslims and Christians live by God’s words. But some people reject the enjoyment of eating and add extra days of fasting to their diet. Other people carry vegetarianism too far and stop eating all egg and milk products. The Torah and the Qur’an command a moderate path between simply killing and eating anything you want and excessive fasting and/or rejecting broad categories of food.
The rabbis ruled that we should say a blessing even if we eat only a small piece of bread the size of an olive. Be grateful even if that is all you have. One person can be satiated but not satisfied, while another can be satisfied but not satiated.
“Who is wealthy? Those who are satisfied with what they have.” (Avot)
The rabbis also ruled that we should say a blessing, the Motzi, before we eat. The Motzi ends with: “who brings forth bread from the earth.” This phrase from Psalm 104:14 is preceded by “who makes the grass spring up for cattle” to remind us every time we eat that we are part of the animal world and need to be considerate of their needs too. Thus it is a Mitsvah (a religious duty) not to eat until one’s animals have been fed (Deuteronomy 11:15).
We should also thank the cook, the baker, the miller, the farmer and everyone else involved in producing our food. The four fundamental elements for producing food are sun, rain, earth and seed: none of which we create.
Usually we are so caught up in using the end products that we forget our dependence on the fundamentals. That is why so many humans blithely harm our environment.
The Motzi helps us remember what life is really based on and why we should be both grateful and reverent to God. Those who live by all these Mitzvot (religious duties) are regarded as if they dine with the Lord:
“This is the table, which is before God.” (Ezekiel 41:22)
As we all know, there are tens of millions of people today who are dieting and there are lots and lots of different diets. It is not essential to find the perfect diet. But it is essential to religiously follow the one you choose. How much we eat, what we eat, what we do not eat and how carefully we fast are not just a matter of calories or fats. Living every day by God’s words and being grateful for God’s daily blessings enables us to nourish our souls as well as our bodies. The Torah asserts that we should
“Eat! Become satisfied and bless the Lord.” (Deuteronomy 8:10)
The Torah does not have to command us to eat. All animals must eat or die. What the Torah is telling us is: eat, bless God and you will become a satisfied person, and then you will surely live.
Rabbi Allen S. Maller’s web site is: rabbimaller.com. He is an ordained Reform Rabbi (HUC_JIR 1964) who retired in 2006 after 39 years as the Rabbi of Temple Akiba in Culver City, California.
Rabbi Maller has written many articles about Islamic and Jewish connections that have appeared on Islamic and Jewish web sites. He is also the editor of a series of “High Holydays” Prayer books, and the author of a book on Jewish mysticism.
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