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Rabbi Frydman-Kohl on Parashat Lech Lecha

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(Pixabay photo)

The beginning of Isaiah 51 advises,“Look to the rock from which you were cut and to the quarry from which you were hewn,” referring to Abraham and Sarah, respectively. Seeking to better understand Judaism, Islam and Christianity, I helped develop the Path of Abraham mission to Israel, an interfaith exploration of three faiths and two people living in the singular land to which the Holy One sent Abraham and Sarah.

While learning about other traditions, our own faith and practices were revealed to us through the eyes of others. Jews watched Christians reaffirm their baptism in the Jordan River and dance during Kabbalat Shabbat at the Western Wall. Muslims listened to the Sermon on the Mount in the Galilee and recited their afternoon prayers in a yeshivah in “the settlements.” Jews directed Muslims toward Mecca and explored Christian space in the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem. These special moments helped us realize how much we had to share with and learn from each other.

At the same time, we learned that Abraham is perceived differently by the three monotheistic faiths. As author Jon Levenson writes in Inheriting Abraham: The Legacy of the Patriarch in Judaism, Christianity and Islam, each tradition sees Abraham as “a paragon of obedience to God, faith in God and love of God,” yet each specific understanding of Abraham by the “cousins” differentiates one from the others.

Judaism and Islam emphasize Abraham’s monotheism in ways that Christianity does not. Christianity and Islam detach Abraham from his familial descendants, the Jewish people. Islam does not identify the Abraham narratives of Genesis as authoritative, affirming the version of the Qur’an.

As Rev. Karen Hamilton and I prepare to lead Sharing Perspectives, a March 2019 learning program under the sponsorship of St. George’s College of Jerusalem, we invite new participants to walk the path of Abraham with us.