Koran is negative to Jews?…ask the rabbi
Rabbi Raymond Apple answers the question…
THE KORAN & THE JEWS
Q. Why do some parts of the Koran seem so negative towards Jews?
A. The Koran is quite a different type of scripture than the Bible.
The Bible is a vast library of sacred literature arising out of many periods and showing evidence of literary art and redaction, whilst the Koran is basically the work of one man at one period of history.
The Koran was not planned and edited as one literary entity; its contents are an often loose collection of utterances assembled on the mechanical basis of putting the longest chapters first; and Mohammed himself admits that some passages were altered as his viewpoint changed, and during his life new chapters were constantly being added.
Much of his material emanates from Jewish sources, but his use of Biblical material is selective. Some Biblical characters are presented in great detail and with approval; others are clearly disapproved of; some are ignored completely.
His attitude to Jews and Judaism is coloured by the increasing hostility of the Jews towards him and his hostility towards them.
The language he uses is crude and militant. In his book, “The Koran and the Bible”, J. Muehleisen-Arnold writes (p. 142): “The Koran frequently assumes a polemical bearing towards the Jews and the Jewish religion, and Arab writers frequently frankly admit that Mohammed now and then made alterations in his plan to diminish, as far as possible, the analogy which his creed bore to that of the Jews.
“The Jews are styled the enemies of Moslemin because they killed the Prophets, are bigoted (sic), proud and self-conceited, consider Ezra to be the Son of God, believe Paradise to be created only for themselves, trust to the intercession of their pious ancestors and corrupt their sacred Scriptures.”
Nonetheless, there is much common ground between Judaism and Islam – even more than with Christianity.
Dialogue and co-operation between the two faiths (indeed trialogue between all three monotheistic religions) is in their own interests as well as essential for world peace and harmony.
WHY IS IT CALLED PESACH?
Q. Why do we name the festival “Pesach” when the Torah calls it “Chag HaMatzot” – “The Festival of Unleavened Bread”?
A. Though we tend to regard the two names as interchangeable, historically there were two festivals – “Pesach”, 14 Nisan, when the paschal lamb was sacrificed on the day before the festival of Matzot (Ex. 12:6), and “Chag HaMatzot”, on the 15th, when the lamb was eaten “al matzot um’rorim”, “with unleavened bread and bitter herbs” (Ex. 12:8).
When the Temple was destroyed and the paschal sacrifice became impossible, the focus shifted to the matzah, though the name Pesach was retained, emphasising the element that was now lacking but would be restored in messianic times with the rebuilding of the Sanctuary.
The explanation Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev gave for the two names was that the two partners, God and Israel, wanted to show their love for one another.
He quoted Shir HaShirim 6:3, “Ani l’dodi v’dodi li” – “I am my Beloved’s and my Beloved is mine”. Hence God praised Israel for the faith with which they went into the desert prepared to eat matzah instead of bread (the Zohar actually calls matzah “the food of faith”); Israel praised God for passing over their homes when He brought the tenth plague.
The partnership between God and Israel is found in many other aspects of Pesach. Ex. 12:42 calls the night of the Exodus “Leil Shimmurim”, “A night of watchfulness”.
Who was it who was waiting and watchful? Both God and Israel: God was waiting for the right moment to bring about the Exodus; Israel were waiting for the opportunity of leaving slavery behind and moving into freedom.
MATZAH ON EREV PESACH
Q. Why do we not eat matzah on Erev Pesach?
A. So that we will eat it with greater appetite and joy once Seder night arrives.
A second view cites the commandment, “In the evening shall you eat unleavened bread” (Ex. 12:18).
We also need to make a distinction between the voluntary eating of matzah during the year and the obligation to eat it at Seder; an analogy is the rule of not blowing the shofar on Erev Rosh HaShanah, to create a distinction between the custom of hearing it during the preceding month and the obligation to hear it on Rosh HaShanah.
Rabbi Apple served for 32 years as the chief minister of the Great Synagogue, Sydney, Australia’s oldest and most prestigious congregation. He was Australia’s highest profile rabbi and held many public roles. He is now retired and lives in Jerusalem.