Şikago Lake Shore Drive Ortodoks Sinagogu'nda Yapılan Konuşma

Fatih Yıldız 10.09.2011
Shabbat Shalom!

I take this opportunity to speak here, as a distinct honor and privilege extended by the leaders and each member of this congregation to me. It is distinct not only because of the fact that this place is special to you, not only that it is such a place where the connection between the Creator and its objects are at its heights, but it is distinct also bearing in mind that we are currently experiencing some difficult times in our relations.

Bearing in mind the burden, these difficult times create on our minds and hearts, today I will make a drastic change in my routine. I will not talk about politics and governments, which is quite difficult for a diplomat to do. Rather, I will talk about humans like myself, like you, like my family and staff who came here; human who are simply vulnerable to the temptation of doing evil, human who are not infallible.

Finding the inspiration for my address was not that difficult, at all. All I had to do was to have a look at your current readings from the Torah. I understand that nowadays you are reading commandments from Ki Teitzei. When I went through the basics of the parashat, I was stunned with the similarity of concepts and commands, to the values that we, as Muslims, also highly regard.

In this parashat, the Torah is in fact enumerating to its readers a number of basic facts about family, relationships and interpersonal ethics. But, since the Torah is considered by its believers as an instructional manual for people’s lives, just like Koran in the eyes of Muslims, every element of it, each command in it, is worthy of close study, even the seemingly insignificant ones. So, to find out the similarities as to the concepts and modes/ways of exploring/interpreting them between Judaism and Islam, was an amazing experience.

And I decided to take the challenge of trying to grasp one of the seemingly insignificant commands in the parashat which stresses the need to be fair and careful, when we weigh and measure things. At first sight, it seems like anyone with common sense can understand this. But when I went a little deeper into that, I learned not only in this parashat, but in different parts of the Torah as well, this concept recurs. And what I firmly believe is that there is something more than what is referred in this parashat, more than those scales and measures that we use in our daily lives in commerce or science. Torah wants us to know that there are also measuring devices in the spiritual and moral realms that have to be used honestly and with care. One of our major failures, as humans, is our tendency to apply favorable sets of standards of judgments and opinions for ourselves and unfavorable ones for others. To justify our deeds and make ourselves look more right in the eyes of others, we use scales that are balanced in our favor. But for others we use another scale, a smaller scale. Our lives are full of examples. When someone takes his time doing something, we call him “slow”; when we do the same, we prefer to call ourselves “meticulous”. When someone does not pay attention to the job he is doing, we call him “irresponsible”; when we do it, we explain it as “being overloaded” or “taking some well-earned break”. When someone acts with its own guts we call him as “aggressive” or “not knowing his limits”, but when we do the same, we again prefer to call it with some fancy names like, “taking the initiative”. This practice of appreciating things with two different scales/measures is a major source of friction in family, society, within a nation and among nations.

Just like the Torah, in our holy book, the Koran, Allah said “Give full measure when you measure out and weigh with a fair balance. This is better in the end.”

To be honest, having my education in international relations and serving in this profession for the last 17 years, I am one of the firm believers in the idea that, as much as we can talk about Judeo-Christian tradition, which has now become very customary in the Western World, we should be able to talk about the Judeo-Islamic tradition as well. Many centuries of coexistence have resulted in some commonalities, which are hard to deny. And my recent and brief encounter with the Torah has only strengthened my beliefs to that effect.

And I also believe, a peaceful and promising future for all can be attainable, if only we can search for the common things that make us one. Indeed, all we have to do is to learn where to look to explore each other, and first and foremost to have the will to know and understand each other. If we can accomplish that, if we can adopt a fair approach to that effect, as the believers in one merciful God, I am confident that we can overcome many of the hurdles, including the ongoing crisis.

With that, I would like to stop here by thanking the members of this small but friendly congregation for hosting me, my family and staff here today and to solemnly commemorate the ones whom we lost 10 years ago, as a result of a heinous attack, which we hope will never happen again in the future of the humankind.

May God the merciful scatter light, like an amud, not darkness in our path for our common good.

Thank you for your attention, understanding and hospitality.

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