Two encounters of Reut-Sadaqa Interfaith Encounter group on 15.10 & 20.11.12
The topic of our last meeting was Cain & Abel/ Qabil & Habil.
We studied the texts in Qu'ran, Genesis and New Testament, as well as Hadith and Midrash. The stories are similar but with important differences: In Qu'ran, Adam tells his sons to sacrifice and Qabil offers poor vegetables for his offering. When he wants to kill his brother, there is a dialogue between them, in which Habil refuses to respond with violence and is killed in his sleep. Crows teach mankind how the bury the dead and watching them Qabil realizes what he has done but does not ask for forgiveness.
In Genesis, the brothers have different professions and one midrash even claims they were deliberately separated because of nightmare of Eve. It is not clear what was deficient in Cain's offering. The dialogue is between God and Cain. It is not clear how Cain killed his brother except that it was done in the field. God accuses Cain offering him a chance to confess, but Cain answers "Am I my brother's keeper?" His punishment is endless wandering to which Cain answers: My "avon" is too much to bear. In Hebrew "avon" means both sin and punishment; in the former tradition, Cain has a moment of illumination and is the first penitent "hozer b'tsuva". God gives Cain a sign to protect him from violence and it is deliberately ambiguous what it was although the midrash makes many suggestions from a horn, a letter to a dog. He marries, has children and build the first city which he names for his son.
The New Testatent only makes a few references to Cain and only to contrast him as the evil doer. The relevance of the story remains profoundly topical and the discussion was intense and lively.
Based on the discussion, we decided to focus our new meeting on the topic of Sin.
We meet at Swedish Theological Institute on the Street of the Prophets in the historic building built by Conrad Schick, as Beit Tabor.
We started by discussing how the rocket attacks effected each of us and our community.
We then turned to our main topic of sin. The session revealed dramatic differences between how they dealt with sin.
In Islam, there are many different terms for sin and fundamental between big sins, for which one is punished in this world and in the next and lesser sins.
The main approach is to realize your error and ask forgiveness from Allah, who will forgive sincere repentance since only He knows what is in the hearts of people. Each person is responsible for their own sins and no one else can redeem then for you. There is no specific ritual or action or day of prayer but Muslims should be forgiving.
Christianity is based on the original sin of Adam and Eve and for which one must undergo baptism to be cleansed of it. Christianity also distinguishes between deadly and daily sins. The deadly sins are:
These are essentially attitudes which lead to even more sins. e.g. anger can lead to violence. The main way that Catholics deal with sin is through the ritual of confession in which they tell their sins to the priest, who may speak with them and impose penance but is bounded as Jesus representative to forgive the sinner, even if he comes again and again with the same sin. It is said that today people go to confession less and to psychologists more. The suffering of Jesus provides forgiveness for all those who believe in Him.
We did speak about difficult areas of forgiveness such as rape, or sexual abuse by clergy.
Judaism makes a fundamental distinction between sins between humans and God and sins between people. Day of Atonement, charity, fast, sincere repentance i.e. being in the same situation and acting different may help with sins between people and God but they do nothelp between fellows. There the person must ask for forgiveness and even then the sinned against is not required to forgive. Traditionally, one should continue asking for forgiveness three times, but not more, as they may enrage the victim. In Judaism, unlike the other religions, sin is conceptualized as doing something wrong; one is not punished for mere thoughts, although there are different
nuances in this matter. In Christianity looking a woman lustfully is a sin; in Judaism, it is not; only if one seduces the woman would it count.
It was a thrilling and very informative session.
Reported: Henry Abramovitch
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