By Rabbi Ron Kronish(as published in the Huffington Post on August 8th, 2013)
“As we Jews begin the month of Elul, the month before our “High Holidays” of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, Muslims in Israel and around the world celebrate the holiday of Eid Al-Fitr. Our calendars, which are both lunar, often run in a parallel way, so this is no coincidence.
I would like to share a look at the Muslim tradition, as described in a blog posting which appeared on the ICCI blog a few days ago, by Haneen Samer Majadleh, one of Israel’s leading young Muslim educators and coexistence activists. Haneen is also a graduate of ICCI’s Young Adult Dialogue and Education programs, and is currently one of the participants in a delegation which we will be sending to Northern Ireland later this month. She wrote about the meaning of Eid Al-Fitr in a blog post that we posted a few days ago, as follows:According to Islamic tradition, Eid Al-Fitr marks the time to give thanks to God for helping the believers to perform their religious duties (fasting and praying) successfully. This holiday is also attributed to the conclusion of the compilation of the Quran, according to some traditions. Additionally, Al Fitr is the holiday of forgiveness, living in peace and togetherness; therefore, it is accustomed to visit friends and relatives and reconcile previous feuds on this holiday.Charity is given throughout the days of the holiday, the sick are visited at hospitals, children are given gifts and sweets are eaten. The celebrations begin with a festive meal with the extended family on the noon of the first day.
Eid Al-Fitr is one of the two most important religious holidays in Islam. It is called the “little” holiday, whereas Eid Al-Adha which is one day longer, is called the “big” holiday. (www.icci.org.il)
When I read this, as a Jew, I was mindful of how similar this is to Judaism. During this month of Elul, we are meant to begin a process of heshbon nefesh, of soul-searching, concerning our personal and communal lives, a process which culminates in the Ten Days of Awe, from Rosh Hashanah (our New Year) through Yom Kippur. This process — which includes fasting on Yom Kippur — is meant to reawaken in us the need for healing our world, for visiting the sick, taking care of the poor, and creating a just society.”