Earlier this week, as we do each year, we observed Memorial Day to honor the ultimate sacrifices of Americans before us who have died for the liberty, we enjoy daily.
The word sacrifice traditionally has meant to make an offering of, to consecrate, or to present to a divinity by way of expiation or propitiation.
It is an acknowledgment or thanksgiving: to immolate on the altar of God, in order to atone for sin, to procure favor, or to express thankfulness.
American parents, myself included, explain on Memorial Day to our children and family that our country, the United States of America, is truly a blessed nation. Its military inherited the tradition of honoring the ultimate sacrifice that has come down to us from Abraham.
According to the three Abrahamic religions, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, God commanded Abraham to offer his son Isaac as a sacrifice.
After Isaac was bound to an altar, a messenger from God stopped Abraham just before the sacrifice, saying "now I know you fear God." Abraham looked up and saw a ram stuck in a bush, and sacrificed it to God instead of Isaac.
Eid al-Adha is the Muslim holy day that honors the sacrifice that Ibrahim (Abraham) was willing to make in obedience to God’s command: the life of his beloved son Ismael (Isaac). But when Ibrahim was about to sacrifice his son, God — impressed by Ibrahim’s faith — provided a sacrificial ram in the boy’s place.
Muslims now celebrate this event by sharing a slaughtered sheep in three parts: one part for themselves, one for their family, and the third part is given to the needy.
We can all join in this spirit of sharing on this special American holiday this month.
In my early childhood, I witnessed the traditions of this holiday in Iraq.
My father would go to an animal farm with two of my oldest brothers, and would purchase a lamb, usually two weeks before the Eid al Adha celebration day.
The lamb would be sheltered in our backyard until its ritual slaughter time, which is the early morning of the first day of Eid AL Adha.
During these two weeks my younger siblings and I would take good care of this lamb, feed it, spend playtime with it, and even give it a cool name.
The closer the day of this sheep slaughter came, the more attached we became to it.
You can imagine the streaming of our emotions, conversations or questions among us!
We ask our mother, "Why can’t we keep it?" "Why do we slaughter this beautiful lamb?" "Can you tell our father not to slaughter the lamb?"
The early morning of Eid Al Adha, my brother would go and bring a butcher to do the ritual of this sacrificial slaughtering of the lamb.
Of course, my siblings and I would cry cluelessly, feeling very sad.
The family would take care dividing the parts of meat to share it among our family, extended ones, and to the poor.
Usually, our mother would make sure we didn’t forget any of the families or individuals who are in need.
By the time we had finished the process of dividing, sharing, ready for our sacrificial feast, my siblings and I would have forgotten our questions related to the lamb’s slaughter, and would feel thankful to share our lamb’s meat with our beloved and with the ones in need of food to eat.
Family gathering in this feast is quite a remarkable remembrance of a family union around fundamental belief that a sacrifice in obedience to the God of Abraham is rewarded by God through the teaching learned by his grace for all family, especially and insightfully for the head of our family, my father.
Gathering around the family feast table, my father with an eye of calmness would observe the meal and all of us gather around this blissful table, looking thoroughly at our mother sharing the cooked food among us, making sure all of us were happy with their shared meal in fairness.
Fairness is not necessarily an equal meat share but rather the genuine understanding of the needs for each of us and fulfilling the roles in our family.
Our father enabled our mother’s being vigilant with our needs and with his teaching, for the older siblings’ role of willingness to compromise their preferences of their meat parts to the younger ones, if needed.
Most importantly, our father sought to have us observe and learn from his teaching.
The insightful time of this gathering will inspire my father by the grace of the God of Abraham to learn more about who we are, and how we grow in blessedness.
Let us always remember the significant meaning of Memorial Day, and other observances and traditions; those which honor and appreciate the men and women who gave the ultimate sacrifice by dying while fighting for our freedom.
Rana Alsaadi is a refugee from Iraq and now a naturalized American citizen. Prior to co-founding PACEM Solutions International in Falls Church, Virginia, Mrs. Alsaadi held multiple Senior Executive positions and served with the US Department of State as a Cultural Advisor and the US Department of Defense as a Translator/Analyst in Iraq. Mrs. Alsaadi earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Baghdad University and her Executive Master of Business Administration from Georgetown University. Read Rana Al Saadi's Reports — More Here.
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