Rabbi Allen Maller
09 February 2017
In the small Gulf Coast city of Victoria,
Texas, there are several churches, but just one synagogue, and one mosque. At
least that’s how it was, until the mosque, built in 2000, mysteriously burned
down at about 2am on Saturday January 28, 2017. Now, the synagogue has become a
mosque because the Jews of Victoria handed the Muslims the key to their
synagogue building, so they could share a place to worship while rebuilding
their own Mosque.
“Everyone knows everybody, I know several members
of the mosque, and we felt for them,” said Robert Loeb, the President of Bnai
Israel, which affiliates with the Reconstructionist movement.
On Sunday January 29, the Victoria
community held an interfaith event in front of the mosque. Through local donations
and a GoFundMe page, the mosque
raised over $900,000 from 18,000+ people by Monday to rebuild the mosque. Let
this be a notice to future hate-filled arsonists, and all those who hate
America, that brotherly love is the truest form of religion in America.
This account of brotherly love is a modern
descendant of the following archetypical fable, transmitted orally in both
Arabic and Hebrew for many centuries, and finally written down in several
different versions in the 19th century. The fable illustrates how two holy
places can be as closely connected as two lungs, even though they are far apart
geographically, and exist in different religious worlds. Some say this happened
in the generation when Abraham was born.
Two brothers, who inherited a ‘valley to
hilltop’ farm from their father, divided the land in half so that each one
could farm his own section. Over time, the older brother married and had four
children, while the younger brother was still not married. One year there was
very little rain, and the crop was very meagre. This was at the beginning of a
long term drought that would turn the whole valley into an arid, treeless
desert where even grain did not grow, and all the springs dried up. The younger
brother lay awake one night praying and thought: “My brother has a wife and
four children to feed, and I have no children. He needs more grain than I do,
especially now that grain is scarce.”
So that night, the younger brother went to his barn, gathered
a large sack of wheat, and left his wheat in his brother’s barn. Then he
returned home, feeling pleased with himself.
Earlier that very same night, the older
brother was also lying awake praying for rain when he thought: “In my old age,
my wife and I will have our grown children to take care of us, as well as
grandchildren to enjoy, while my brother may have no children. He should at
least sell more grain from his fields now, so he can provide for himself in his
old age. So that night, the older brother also gathered a large sack of wheat,
and left it in his brother’s barn, and returned home, feeling pleased with
The next morning, the younger brother,
surprised to see the amount of grain in his barn seemed unchanged, said “I did
not take as much wheat as I thought. Tonight I will take more.” That same
morning, the older brother, standing in his barn, was thinking the same
After night fell; each
brother gathered a greater amount of wheat from his barn and in the dark,
secretly delivered it to his brother’s barn. The next morning, the brothers
were again puzzled and perplexed. “How can I be
mistaken?” each one thought. “There’s the same amount of grain here as there
was before. This is impossible! Tonight I will make no mistake—I will take two
The third night, more determined than ever,
each brother gathered two large sacks of wheat from his barn, loaded them onto
a cart, and slowly pulled his cart toward his brother’s barn. In the moonlight,
each brother noticed a figure in the distance. When the two brothers got
closer, each recognized the form of the other and the load he was pulling, and
they both realized what had happened! Without a word, they dropped the ropes of
their carts, ran to each other and embraced.”
Only God can make something holy, and God,
through the brothers’ love and concern for each other made their descendants
worthy to rebuild a primordial Holy House in this valley, and later to build a
new Holy House on that far hill. So God sent Messengers to their descendants to
guide them to do this.
Christians and Jews say the hilltop is
Jerusalem. Muslims say the valley is Makkah.
I say they are both right.
God gave humans two lungs to recycle the
holy spirit within humans, among humans and between humans and God.
When all those, both near and far, who
revere these sacred places as a standard, share it in love with everyone else
who reveres it, then Abraham’s request for Allah to “make this a land of peace,
and provide its people with the produce of the land” (Qur’an 2:126) will be
extended throughout the world and all the children of Adam, Noah and Abraham
will live in Holiness, Peace and Prosperity.