The Abrahamic Faiths – What Rabbi Lawrence told them

August 4, 2010 Agencies
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The eighth conference of the three Abrahamic Faiths was held recently in Sydney. This year it was the Jewish religion’s turn to provide the keynote speaker. Here is what Rabbi Jeremy Lawrence had to say…

The meeting was held at Mary Mckillop House in North Sydney. Following Rabbi Lawrence’s address, the 150 guests split up into groups of ten to discuss what he had to say…followed by a Q & A session.

Here is what Rabbi Lawrence had to say:

Rabbi Jeremy Lawrence

You cannot beat the truth. About ten years ago I got into a lift at the Auckland Hospital.  I was joined there by a priest and a young nun.  I felt in an instant that here was joke come to life.  As if the Almighty sought to reprimand my irreverence, the lift juddered to halt between two floors and we were trapped together for a few minutes.

After a while, the nun asked the priest, “Should we pray?”

I couldn’t resist commenting, “How well we know whose prayers were answered?”

The priest questioned what it would signify if we then went up or down.

After a short while, down we went.  The doors open.  We were greeted by a smiling Sikh mechanic; a spanner in his hand, in overalls and a turban!

It is hard for us to predict with certainty the mechanics of redemption.

I am delighted to be a part of this Forum and to sharing this afternoon’s platform with eloquent and published theologians: Dr Salih Yucel and Professor Neil Ormerod.

Psalm 133 opens with the statement – Hinay ma tov u ma nayim shevet achim gam yachad. How good and pleasant it is when brothers sit together.  The word ‘together’ in Hebrew is Yachad.  In the Psalm the expression is ‘Gam Yachad’  The word ‘Gam’ means also – but it is hard to translate in this context.  Our commentaries ponder the word Gam – why Gam?

They explain that the ‘Gam’ strengthens the togetherness.  Also me and also you…

Interfaith dialogue is not without its doubters and detractors.  Over the years I have encountered many who feel that there is only value in intra-faith – strengthening internal bonds and reinforcing the particular narrative.  Some see Abrahamic dialogue as a threat to the Judeo-Christian tradition; an infiltration of the Prophet and the Quran into a cosy alliance built around the Old Testament and Revelation at Sinai.  Yet others deny that such a Judeo-Christian tradition really exists.

From my own experience in New Zealand, an annual highlight was the CCJ-CCM intermeeting.  There, every year, it was the Jewish and the Moslem communities and speakers who found we shared the most; our dietary regimes, a day built around prayer services, strict codes of living that regulate and sanctify all of our day and all of our deeds.

It is good when brothers and indeed sisters can sit together and share.

The Book of Genesis charts sibling rivalries; Cain and Abel; Isaac and Ishmael, Jacob and Esau; Joseph and his 11 siblings.  It is Moses and Aaron, separated so early in Moses’ life, who first come together and collaborate as brothers.  “See,” says God to Moses at the Burning Bush, “Is not your brother, Aaron the Levite coming to meet you?  And when he sees you he will rejoice in his heart.”  Aaron had room in his heart for Moses’ success and election.  Moses, for his part, was desperate that he not bear the responsibility for Israel’s redemption alone.

In the Torah, we are told that Moses stuttered.  The Hebrew word for a stutter is ‘Gamgem’.  The repetition of the syllable gam-gem is stutteringly onomatopoeic.  Separate the syllables and Gam gem means also, also.  Like the Gam in Gam Yachad.  Also me, also you.  Mosaic success was about a partnership of brothers.

How did God introduce himself to Moses?  He said “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.”

So who was Abraham?


One Response to “The Abrahamic Faiths – What Rabbi Lawrence told them”
  1. Lynne Newington says:

    You can’t get a better introduction than that; ” I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.
    No bibical illigitimacy there and the importance of inheritance, even today.

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