13 May 2008 |
Posted by Lama Surya Das | 1 Comment.
My young friend Raffie had his bar mitzvah last weekend in LA, mainly to keep his Dad’s side of the family happy. It turned out to be an Orthodox Chabad service in a rented upstairs room at the Best Western, attended mainly by family and a few others in order to make up a minyan — the requisite ten men traditionally required for Jewish prayer services. Men and women sat separately. There was two and a half hours almost entirely in Hebrew, and aliyahs (blessings read aloud) which seemed to deal extensively with which offences merit stoning along with other topical issues like the constraints on wearing wool and linen at the same time and not eating fruit for the first three years after planting a tree. It’s always good to see how others’ worship. All religions tend to function much the same, yet each one is nothing if not particular.
Raff had invited one of his best friends, whose family happens to be Lebanese and Muslim. We weren’t holding much hope that he would actually come, but thank goodness there are still some sane and sensible religious folk around, amongst all us “my brand is much better” merchants. So young Kareem was dropped off, bravely made his way into the midst of a synagogue service, donned a yarmulke and sat like an angel.
Hassan, this the boy’s dad, later reported that the boys had apparently decided — without parental approval — that the party later that afternoon would be an ideal time to persuade Raff’s father of the joy and safety of shooting airsoft guns — the new craze in LA. So Kareem was going to bring along his airsoft gun. He was getting out of the back seat of his dad’s car to go up the steps and into the Jewish service, with it in his hand, before his father notices and says: “Don’t you have something to put that in?” Kareem says no, he’s just going to carry it. To which Hassan rejoins: “Excuse me, you’re an Arab, going into a synagogue in the middle of a service, brandishing a gun… I don’t think so!”
The gun went home with Hassan; Kareem went upstairs to do his bit for interfaith understanding; and this story of interfaith respect and understanding has had us all chortling ever since.
Moral of the story: put away your guns and your extreme views, my friends the religionists, and let’s try to tread a wise middle way.