Faithful gather for fellowship under one roof
Wayne Harvie (left) puts a braided candle into a cup of juice that Student Rabbi Zachary Zysman holds during the Havdalah at the Interfaith Thanksgiving service at Temple Beth Jacob in El Centro on Saturday. (BRANDY RONEK PHOTO / November 18, 2012)
The service, hosted at Temple Beth Jacob in El Centro, emphasized a sense of responsibility for one’s neighbors, drawing on the teachings of the three religions.
“Judaism teaches to care for others, focuses on giving to others,” said Student Rabbi Zachary Zysman. “We should feel a sense of responsibility for our fellow human beings.”
Farooq Ahmad of the Imperial Valley Islamic Center explained the difference between obligatory charity and voluntary charity, saying that while both are good, voluntary charity is more meaningful.
“The best charity is to satisfy a hungry person,” he said. “When you give charity by the right hand, the left hand should not know about it.”
He also clarified the Muslim perspective on wealth.
“Excessive attachment to wealth and anything (else) reduces our degree of freedom, and when our degree of freedom is reduced, we become shackled,” he said.
Giving to charity benefits not just the recipient, Ahmad said, but it helps the giver reduce attachment to material goods.
Lt. Jared N. Smith, chaplain of Naval Air Facility El Centro, contrasted the biblical story of a wealthy man who was unable to fulfill a command to give up his riches and serve God, with the story of a sinful lady who washed Jesus Christ’s feet with her tears.
“He had everything and could give nothing. The sinful lady had little to offer but gave her all,” he said.
Zysman briefly alluded to the violence raging in the Gaza Strip and Israel between Hamas and Israeli forces by highlighting the common ancestry that Jews and Arabs share in Abraham through his sons Isaac and Ishmael, and said he hoped both groups would “hopefully live in peace.”
The service concluded with the Havdalah, a Jewish prayer that ends Shabbat, the Jewish day of rest. Congregants gathered in a circle and sang a prayer while a box of spice and grape juice were passed around, indicating sweetness that would hopefully come. An intertwined candle was dipped in the grape juice at the end of the prayer, closing Shabbat.
Congregants ended the evening with dinner. There was also an opportunity to make donations to the Imperial Valley Food Bank.
Staff Writer Antoine Abou-Diwan can be reached at 760-337-3454 or firstname.lastname@example.org