Our Peace Project! Knitting for Peace 2 days Per Month

Ok,

Here it is the beginning of the New Year, and I think we should start something special here on this blog.

Basically, you don’t have to knit anything in particular, it’s not a KAL. It’s not a charity project.
It is two days on which you dedicate the first row or the first hour of your knitting time to thinking about world peace. Praying for world peace or just sending out good mojo for world peace. 😉

We ask that you do this on the last day and the first day of the month.

So on December 31st and Jan 1st
All you have to do is knit and think or pray for world peace.

Peace in Iraq
Peace in Afghanistan
Peace in Isreal
Peace at home.

Where ever you think peace is needed pray for peace while you knit.

Please come back and post what you thought about how it made you feel etc.
Let us know if you think this is a good idea.

Hanane & Katie

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My Interview With Katie

I had to do a religious interview paper for my religion class. I thought I would share my questions, Katie’s answers and my comments on her answers with each of you.

Hanane:

What is the importance of the Israel? Would you like to go? What would mean to you to go there?

Katie:
Yes, I would love to visit Israel. I think it would be important as a Jew to visit all the biblical sites. I would also like to visit the major sites of the other religions that coexist there. Israel is the ancestral homeland of the Jewish people, from biblical times. There has always been a longing for a return, ever since the destruction of the temple by the Romans. As anti-Semitism became worse over time, the longing to return home became joined with the idea of Israel as a place of refuge from persecution. Had there been an Israel in the 1930’s and 1940’s, many people who became victims of the holocaust would have survived. It has become a refuge for Jews who were persecuted in places like the Soviet Union and Ethiopia and elsewhere. So it is a spiritual home, historical home, and a physical home.

My Comment:
The part about it being a refuge is something that I hear a lot. That Jews need a place to feel safe.

Hanane:
Do you participate in the High Holidays and if so what do you do and what does it mean to you spiritually?

Katie:
Yes, I do participate in High Holidays. Spiritually they mean a fresh and clean slate for the start of a new year to me. It is a chance to make things right and to do good things in the coming year and a chance to look at our mistakes and imperfections as a human being.

My Comment: This is exactly how I feel about Ramadan. It is like a clean fresh start. I think participation in any type of extended holiday makes you feel this way. There is more of a spiritual connection with God
.
Hanane:
You mentioned that you were once Catholic and converted to Judaism. What were the factors that drew you to Judaism? Did your conversion have an affect on your family?

Katie:
Honestly, I never much bought into the whole “dogma” of Jesus or the Catholic faith in general. This happened very early in my years that I realized it was not the right “fit” if you will for me. I basically grew up in the Catholic faith and went to church because my mother did. I found there was too much “mystery”, and not enough “fact” in the faith. Judaism is about community and history as well as the religion aspect. There is no right or wrong and no governing body to dictate what is so. This was a very important factor for me. To look at the Catholic faith and the fact one human being has the power to say yes or no, and change the rules as they see fit, bothered me. With Judaism there is much more diversity.

Actually it really did not affect the relationship with my family. They just kind of accepted it. Since Mark’s death, they have been increasingly interested in my religion. They have seen the support from the Rabbi and the local Jewish community for my situation and are really pleased that I have such good support. My mom says repeatedly that I would never have gotten hat support in the Catholic faith, and I have to agree. So in short, the effect provided a positive effect rather than a negative one.

My Comment:
I can see where you are coming from there. It never felt right for me either and I spent more time in trouble asking questions than I in worship. The just accept things as they are philosophy just didn’t cut it with me, I needed and wanted answers. That is what I like about both of our religions we ask questions and somehow someway we will receive an answer, if our Imams or Rabbi have to go higher up to get the answer they will. I am Happy your family was able to accept your religion and be supportive and are now seeing the good effect it has had on you.

Hanane:
What is the importance of taking a Religious name?

Katie:
A Hebrew name is basically used during instances when you get called to read the Torah, marriage and death, most of the time we use our “regular” names. It is also inscribed on your headstone at the cemetery.

My Comment:
An interesting difference, Muslims aren’t obliged to take a religious name unless their name has some foul meaning, offensive to others or to God. Meaning we can’t have our names be the names of other Gods/Goddesses.

Hanane:
What would you as a Jew interpret to be God’s will?

Katie:
Actually, the opinions vary widely. Orthodox Jews would see everything that happens as G-d’s will in some way–which of course then leads to the problems of theodicy that challenge so many people. Others, like Harold Kushner, would see G-d’s will in the way in which people respond and use their free will for good. G-d’s will taking the form not of control, but of guidance and support. In that way, it leaves people freedom as moral agents, and avoids the sense of inevitability of what happens to us in our lives; that when bad things happen to good people it is the result of random events or the acts of evil people, not G-d manipulating the situation. G-d’s will is what G-d wants, not necessarily what G-d dictates.

My Comment:
I can see both sides of this argument; because we see it as everything that happens as God’s will in someway. But I personally find it hard to swallow when a person kills another, or that innocent children are molested by God’s will that is the not what God would dictate. That is what mankind has chosen to do.

Hanane:
Do you have a favorite scripture?

Katie:
Well, I would have to say the book of Ruth only because she was the first Jewish convert, and I wrote a paper on that book in college. Also the Psalms can be comforting as well.

My Comment:
I am with you on that, I love the stories of the Early women in Islam the ones who sacrificed so much. I did not know that Ruth was the first Jewish convert. Very interesting.

Hanane:
What is the greatest commandment of the Torah?

Katie:
Akiba said specifically that the greatest of the commandments is “love your neighbor as yourself.” Another candidate would be the mitzvah of saving life. All but 3 of the 613 commandments can be set aside in order to save one’s own life or the life of another. The only 3 that cannot be violated to save life are the prohibitions against sexual offenses, murder, and pagan worship. Otherwise, if life is at stake, all bets are off. There is a verse that says “these are the commandments that a person should do and live by,” and the Rabbis interpret this to mean that you live by the commandments, not die by them.

My Comment:
613 commandments! I had only heard about 10, growing up. But it does kind of make sense, that there would be more. Last night in our Halaqa we talked about “loving thy neighbor as you love yourself” It is an important aspect of Islam as well. Do anything except kill, commit a sexual offense or worship other Gods in order to save a life.

Hanane:
Is there a Jewish ceremony or festival that has particularly special meaning for you?

Katie:
Personally, I like Yom Kippur.

Hanane:
Is there a spiritual version of Judaism? In Islam we have Sufism.

Katie:
Yes, Judaism has the Kabbalah which is practiced by the Hasidim.

Hanane:
Can Kabbalah be practiced by the ordinary everyday Jew? I mean Madonna claims to follow the Kabbalah and I would not call her a Hasidim.

Katie:
Yes, Kabbalah can be practice by anyone, although it is not recommended without a teacher. The Zohar (which is the book of Kabbalah) is very cryptic. And in theory, you must be over 40, married and stable.

Hanane:
So I guess this would rule out Madonna she is not a Kabbalah…what is the correct term?

Katie:
No she is not, and she is NOT Jewish despite her taking a Hebrew name. She is full of it. And a practitioner of Kabbalah is a Kabbalist.

My Comment:
Not Surprising I feel the same way about Michael Jacksons supposed conversion to Islam. But I find it interesting that a Jewish person, if they wish to study the Kabbalah or call themselves a Kabbalist has to do so under the tutelage of a teacher, because I believe the same is true about a Muslim who wishes to call himself a Sufi. But I think all people should be able to seek that spirituality for themselves in some ways. For instance, we do not have a Sufi teacher here where I life but some of the practices of the Sufi’s our little place has taken up participating in. I love the feeling of doing the Dhikr (literally remembrance) but it is chanting prayers or remembrance of God. It is very relaxing and soothing.

Hanane:
Do you participate in the rituals of the Sabbath? If so how does this affect you spiritually? What are the rituals of the Sabbath?

Katie:
Well, I do go to services when offered on Friday nights. Since Mark’s death I have become more and more involved in the Sabbath rituals and begun lighting the Sabbath candles at home. Some of the rituals are difficult for me because I am alone, but I still try to observe the day of rest.
Spiritually, it is a time to rest and reflect on the week without the distractions of everyday life.
The rituals for the Sabbath are:
1. Lighting the Sabbath Candles
2. Saying a blessing over the bread and the wine
3. Gathering of family to dinner, setting a fancier table than the weekday, making the meal special.

Hanane:
I have seen many shows especially around Halloween just a few months ago on the concepts of Hell, can you tell me about the Jewish belief in punishment after death?

Katie:
First off, the concept of reward and punishment after death is very amorphous. Even in the Talmud there is a Rabbi who is quoted as saying there is no such thing as hell. And clearly the Jewish understanding was never as fully developed or defined as Dante has in the Commedia. And of course some Jews do not believe in any existence after death, that everything is in this world. One of the rabbis of the Talmud said “be not like the servant who labors in expectation of a bonus, but rather like the servant who labors without expectation of a bonus.” But for those who do believe in some sort of reward and punishment in an end-time or after death, the idea is that by observing the commandments as best one can, one will be rewarded. To some extent the concept is there that the soul is judged for up to a year, and then is cleansed and can return to god. There really is no fully defined concept of eternal damnation and hellfire, etc.in the morning prayers) there is a statement “these are the things that a person enjoys the benefit of in this world, but the principal remains for him in the world to come.” What are they? Dowering the bride, visiting the sick, sincere prayer, regular study, bringing peace between people, “and the study of torah is equivalent to/leads to all of them.” The Talmud also says, “all Israel have a share in the world to come,” which presumably means every Jew, eventually.
oh, btw, there is also the doctrine that Non-Jews who observe 7 basic commandments (“the commandments of the children of Noah”) also will have a share in the world to come. what are they?
Prohibitions against 1. murder 2. pagan worship 3. sexual offenses 4. tearing flesh from a living animal and/or eating blood 5. blasphemy (but note that a non-Jew is not required to worship G-d as a Jew does) 6. theft (property or kidnapping) and 7. taking the law into your own hands (which can also be understood as the imperative to support laws that are fair and equitable for all). The Talmud says that any non-Jew who observes these 7 is entitled to as much in the world to come as a Jew who observes all 613.

My Comment:
Punishment for a year before cleansing is complete and going to God. Muslims also have the idea of Punishment in the grave. Hell will be closed to all but the most evil of people is also a belief of Muslims. 7 commandments that non-Jews can follow and still make it into heaven, cool a loop-hole.

Hanane:
What does the prayer of a Jewish person consist of? We have a series of steps in our prayer.

Katie:
The daily prayers of a Jew consist of:
1. Blessings of gratitude
2. Recitation of Psalms
3. Affirmation of the Shema (“Hear O’ Israel, the Lord our G-d, the Lord is One”)
4. Recitation of the Amidah (which is a prayer said while standing praising G-d, telling G-d our needs (health, etc) Redemption of the Jewish people and world peace, and thanking G-d)
5. Concluding prayer
Holiday and Sabbath prayers have more and are longer in duration. Prayer is usually recited in Hebrew.
Like our prayers are recited in Arabic, I love the ritual steps of prayer they just somehow seem to make you feel more connected.

Hanane:
Do you find commonalities of Judaism shared with other religions? Is so, what?

Katie:
Actually there is a lot in common with Islam. All the “pillars” can be found in Jewish practice in one way or another (the oneness and singular nature of G-d, prayer — 3x a day, fasting, almsgiving, and even a sense of pilgrimage: in ancient times people were expected to go up to Jerusalem every Passover, Shavuot, and Sukkot; nowadays the idea of going to Israel, while not a religious requirement, is an aspiration) along with things like dietary laws.

My Comment:
Yes we do have many things in common, I am glad to have found a good Jewish friend on which to build a relationship of mutual trust and understanding. I hope our friendship and our web-log inspires other people to look at each other an perhaps see a friend and not an enemy. Katie and I work hard for peace in our daily lives and pray for peace for the world.

Peace, Salaam, Shalom.