By Micah Halpern
Sunday August 19, 2018
I've Been Thinking:
According to many Islamic calendars, the Hajj began at first light this morning.
The Hajj is the annual pilgrimage to Mecca and sometimes Medina. Every able-bodied Muslim male is commanded to make the Hajj once in his lifetime. Some Muslims do it annually. This year Saudi Arabia granted 1.7 million visas and they are expecting over 2 million pilgrims during the 5 day event.
The Arabic word "Hajj" derives from the same root as the Hebrew word "Chag". It means "holiday". The three letter root is H - G - G. In both Arabic and Hebrew, the soft "G" has the "J" sound. That is why I spell Hajj with two Js, not two Gs. And that is why in Hebrew the biblical character is called Hagar and in the Koran she is called Hajar.
The pilgrim enters Mecca and makes his way to the Great Mosque, the largest mosque in the world with the ability to accommodate 2 million pilgrims at one time.
The Great Mosque encompasses the Kabba, the square stone. And that is where the pilgrim performs the Tawaf - the ritual in which the Kabba is circled 7 times in a counterclockwise direction. Pilgrims then walk between the two hills that Hajar, the wife of Ibrahim (Abraham) walked. She walked between Safa and Marwa looking for water for her son Ishmael.
Circling seven times is a common tradition in Judaism, as well. Jews do it during the holidays of Sukkot, Hoshannah Rabbah and Simchat Torah and call it Hakafot. During Jewish wedding ceremonies, brides traditionally circle their grooms 7 times while standing under the chupah, the wedding canopy.
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