The Torah’s Prophecy of Jewish-Muslim Reconciliation

At the end of this week’s Torah reading of Ḥayyei Sarah (Genesis 23:1-25:18), Abraham dies and his two eldest sons, Ishmael and Isaac, come together to bury him. By analyzing this scene in light of several other details in the same reading, Jonathan Sacks interprets it is an allegory for a reconciliation between Judaism—represented by the patriarch Isaac—and Islam—represented by Ishmael, who, in both Jewish and Muslim traditions, is the forebear of the Arabs:

Ishmael’s presence at [his father’s] funeral is surprising. After all, he had been sent away into the desert [by Abraham] years before, when Isaac was young. Until now, we have assumed that the two half-brothers have lived in total isolation from one another. Yet the Torah places them together at the funeral without a word of explanation. The sages piece together [this and other] puzzling details to form an enthralling story. . . .

We know that Abraham did not want to send him away; [his wife] Sarah’s demand was “very grievous in Abraham’s sight on account of his son” (Gen. 21:11). Nonetheless, God told Abraham to listen to his wife. There is, however, an extraordinary midrash, in [the rabbinic commentary] Pirkei d’Rabbi Eliezer, that tells of how Abraham twice visited his son. On the first occasion, Ishmael was not at home. His wife, not knowing Abraham’s identity, refused the stranger bread and water. Ishmael, continues the midrash, divorced her and married a woman named Fatimah. This time, when Abraham visited, again not disclosing his identity, the woman gave him food and drink. The midrash then says: “Abraham stood and prayed before the Holy One, blessed be He, and Ishmael’s house became filled with all good things. When Ishmael returned, his wife told him about it, and Ishmael knew that his father still loved him.” Father and son were reconciled.

The name of Ishmael’s second wife, Fatimah, is highly significant. In the Quran, Fatimah is the daughter of Mohammad. Pirkei d’Rabbi Eliezer is an 8th-century work, and it is here making an explicit, and positive, reference to Islam.

Beneath the surface of the narrative in Ḥayyei Sarah, the sages read the clues and pieced together a moving story of reconciliation between . . . Isaac and Ishmael. . . . Yes, there was conflict and separation; but that was the beginning, not the end. Between Judaism and Islam there can be friendship and mutual respect. Abraham loved both of his sons, and was laid to rest by both.

Read more at Rabbi Jonathan Sacks

More about: Genesis, Hebrew Bible, Ishmael, Jonathan Sacks, Midrash, Muslim-Jewish relations, Quran, Religion & Holidays


How the U.S. Is Financing Bashar al-Assad

Due to a long history of supporting terrorism and having waged a brutal and devastating war on its own people, the Syrian regime is subject to numerous U.S. sanctions. But that doesn’t stop American tax dollars from going to President Bashar al-Assad and his cronies, via the United Nations. David Adesnik explains:

UN agencies have spent $95.5 million over the past eight years to house their staff at the Four Seasons Damascus, including $14.2 million last year. New Yorkers know good hotel rooms don’t come cheap, but the real problem in Damascus is that the Four Seasons’ owners are the Assad regime itself and one of the war profiteers who manages the regime’s finances.

The hotel would likely go under if not for UN business; Damascus is not a tourist destination these days. The UN claims keeping its staff at the Four Seasons is about keeping them safe. Yet there has been little fighting in Damascus since 2017. A former UN diplomat with experience in the Syrian capital told me the regime tells UN agencies it can only guarantee the safety of their staff if they stay at the Four Seasons.

What makes the Four Seasons debacle especially galling is that it’s been public knowledge for seven years, and the UN has done nothing about it—or the many other ways the regime siphons off aid for its own benefit. One of the most lucrative is manipulating exchange rates. . . . One of Washington’s top experts on humanitarian aid crunched the numbers and concluded the UN lost $100 million over eighteen months to this kind of rate-fixing.

What the United States and its allies should do is make clear to the UN they will turn off the spigot if the body doesn’t get its act together.

Read more at New York Post

More about: Bashar al-Assad, Syria, U.S. Foreign policy, United Nations