PEACE IN ACTION
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Peace in the mid-east was achieved but it was thousands of miles away from Jerusalem. On Saturday, August 12, the sacred Jewish Sabbath Day, Nahalat Shalom (Hebrew for Inheritance of Peace) a Jewish Renewal congregation in Albuquerque, New Mexico, led by Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb, hosted Sufi Sheik Abu Saleh el Refai, a Sufi Master and the spiritual leader of the Palestinian village D'Ir Qadis on the West Bank. The Walking Stick Foundation based in Cuba, NM founded by Rabbi Gershon Winkler and dedicated to spiritual teachings and world peace, brought the Sheik to the United States.
The Sheik, robed in white that "represents an angel's wings" with gold lace trim ribboned with a red thread, stood among the 25 Jews, Muslims and Native Americans gathered for the 'Praying for Peace Day'. At 5'6" he seemed a giant if one measured height in gentle, quiet strength. One could not help but feel the joy and peace that exuded from within this balding, intense dark-eyed, slightly stocky man. When the time came for the sacred scroll, the Torah, to be carried around the congregation, it was The Sheik who held it tightly, eyes closed in solemn respect and prayer.
In 1990, during the Entifadah War, The Sheik had a vision that frightened him. Moses spoke with him. Moses told him to open his Mosque to Jews. "I thought maybe it was Satan, the Devil trying to do something," he said in Hebrew, the language he spoke throughout the day, translated by Gabriel Meyer, his Jewish-Israeli friend and translator. "After all, I am a Muslim! Why would Moses speak with me!?" After much consultation with other spiritual leaders including Kabbalistic Rabbis, The Sheik knew he had no choice but to follow the voice that spoke within him. Two years ago, he opened the doors of his Mosque to Jews.
Meyer was the third Jew to arrive as a visitor at the Mosque. He had heard about it from his friend Eliahu MacLean, a peace activist, who had also visited. Meyer, 34, is the son of the late Rabbi Marshall Meyer, a disciple of Abraham Heschel and Martin Buber. He was a reknowned interfaith and human rights activist whose work and spirit was passed on to his son Gabriel. For years Gabriel has been bringing spiritual leaders, from all faiths, to Israel to bridge their aboriginal heritage with other nations. Meyer was the first Jew to bring The Sheik out from his Mosque to a public Jewish gathering. It was Sukkoth, a festival of fruits and harvest, and Meyer arrived with a gift of myrtle and willow.
"The first time he came, he stayed for an hour," Meyer said, reflecting from the porch of a Santa Fe home. "The second time he stayed for three days!"
There is vast difference between political peace and spiritual peace. What was experienced throughout the day and night in New Mexico was peace in action. The Torah portion of the day included one of the most important spiritual teachings of the Torah. "Shema Yisroeal, Adonai Elohaynu, Adonai Echud." Hear the Path of One G-d. While we often interpret "One" to mean that we must all think alike, One - Echud, also teaches embracing our diversity. There are many roads leading to Peace. Peace is not only about war it is about being humbled by "loving our neighbor" and transcending our differences, embracing our differences no matter how we serve G-d, Hashem, The Creator.
As a Jewish woman dancing Dhikr [pronounced Tzeeker] Allah, a spiritual Sufi ritual, chanting loudly the name of Allah, I at first felt resistance. Was I turning my back on my Jewishness? Was I invoking Allah, a G-d recognized by another religion? In the primal grunting from deep withn our souls, "AAAA-lah, AAAA-lah, and the synchronized swaying movement of our bodies, something happened. Something was released and experienced. One. What I realized in that shared dance was that "Allah" is merely a word. Just like Hashem, The Name. We so often interpret the different Divine Names used for The Creator to be different "G-ds" when, in fact, we are referring to One G-d, The Creator. One. Allah. Hashem. The Creator. Divine Names for a sacred, mystical, unknowing energy among us. Islam has 99 words for G-d. Hebrew has many as well.
From a spiritual peace perspective, we must recognize that spiritual heights mean lessened egos. In spirit we connect to a Higher Power. Some call that Power G-d, some Higher Power, some Hashem, some Jesus, some Allah, some Elohaynu. If we come from a place of being "right" we are coming from ego and will not acheive peace, spiritually or politically. In order to acheive peace we must exist as One, respecting and honoring our individual Ways without imposing our way on anyone else. Echud. Yet, at the same time we must honor, learn, and share our "neighbors" Ways.
In order to exist in harmony together we had to call upon inner strengths. Spiritual strengths. It was humbling and challenging. We were connected to a Power even greater than Mohamed or Jesus or Moses. We were connected to The Creator who created all of us, even the different Prophets.
I was holding the hand of Peacemaker, a Sufi Sheik who exists among us with the courage to dare to live and walk in Peace and offer that reality to anyone open to hearing his message. In the middle of the Dhikr circle danced, with arms locked together, David Carson, a Chocto Indian and author of "Medicine Cards", Kam Night Chase, a Lakota Sundance Chief, Meyer, and Jacouv, 20, son of The Sheik, beating drums, chanting and loving each other. That was Peace and harmony in action which can be re-created in each one of our hearts as well as in Palestine and Jerusalem.