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Holidays converge for two major world religions

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Posted: Monday, October 3, 2005 10:00 pm

For the first time in 33 years, calendars used by Jews and Muslims have coincided to mark the beginning of holy seasons Rosh Hashanah and Ramadan within hours of one another.

Rosh Hashanah, which began at sundown Monday, marks the beginning of not only Tishri, the seventh calendar month, but the new year (5766) and beginning of the 10-day High Holy Days, a time for celebration as well as the atonement of sins. The holiday will continue until sundown on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Muslims looked skyward Monday night for the coming of the new moon -- a sign that Ramadan, the ninth lunar month of the year, has begun. If the moon comes out, American Muslims will join as many as 1 billion Muslims worldwide who recently began a month of fasting during daylight hours and affirm their faith through moral and spiritual purification.

Both major religions use their own lunar calendars to determine on which days holidays will fall. Generally, their major holidays fall within weeks or months of one another.

Until this year, that is.

"It's a cosmic coincidence," said Rabbi Raphael Pazo Jr., who lives in Lodi and is a volunteer chaplain for the Lodi Police Department.

Pazo said this year he plans to observe Rosh Hashana, in accordance to his own faith, and later share a Ramadan dinner with some Muslim neighbors who live nearby.

Pazo said Rosh Hashana is a time for people to come together and reflect on the passing of another year. It is a joyous occasion featuring feasting, he said, where people eat apples and honey to remind themselves of the sweet things they hope will come in the new year. The new year is also recognized by the blowing of the shofar, or ram's horn.

"It is a very joyous occasion," Pazo added. "It's the beginning of the new year, of reflection, forgiveness and contrition."

While Jewish congregants celebrate their holiday with feasting, Muslims will begin a month-long period of daylight fasting. The act makes people think about the suffering of others compared to the blessings they, themselves, have been given.

Ramadan is a special occasion because it was the month in which the Quran was revealed to the people of Islam.

Tasleem Ali, a teacher at Henderson Community Day School, said she looks forward to the month of Ramadan because it gives her a chance to look back at the important things in life.

When the sun goes down during Ramadan many families break their fast with elaborate and joyous meals. By then, Ali said, everything tastes sweeter.

"By the end of the day when the sun goes down, you can't believe how much you appreciate water," she said.

Throughout the month, prayer will be held at the Lodi Muslim Mosque on Poplar Street, including the recitation of the Quran, according to Mosque President Mohammad Shoaib.

Because Ramadan is a time for all people coming together, Shoaib said, the mosque welcomes people who would like to join in celebration at prayer services.

While the week marks the confluence of Judaism and Islam, it also features a common Christian observance, the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi. Oct. 4 is a time when many people of the Catholic and Episcopal faiths bless animals to observe the saint known for his love of animals.

To observe the holiday, students at St. Anne's Catholic School in Lodi will participate in a blessing of the animals ceremony today at 2:30 p.m. on school grounds.

Contact reporter Sara Cardine at sarac@lodinews.com.

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