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We should consider Christians and Moslems as instruments for the fulfillment of the prophecy that the knowledge of God will one day spread throughout the earth. Whereas the nations before them worshipped idols, denied God's existence, and thus did not recognize God's power or retribution, the rise of Christianity and Islam served to spread among the nations, to the furthest ends of the earth, the knowledge that there is One God who rules the world, who rewards and punishes and reveals Himself to man.

Indeed, Christian scholars have not only won acceptance among the nations for the revelation of the Written Torah but have also defended God's Oral Law. For when, in their hostility to the Torah, ruthless persons in their own midst sought to abrogate and uproot the Talmud, others from among them arose to defend it and to repulse the attempts. Commentary to Pirkey Avot, Other religions share our God who commands on Sinai and rewards and punishes and acknowledge our scripture; accordingly, they have become our allies in this world.

Emden's abstraction of the concept of Mosaic Torah as the acceptance of Scripture, allows him to view Christians and Moslems as sharing our devotion to Torah even if they do not accept the laws. Emden presents a model of interreligious cooperation premised on a shared premodern world of dogma and belief in God.

In contrast, his younger contemporary Mendelssohn contended that respect can only exist in a realm of secular modernity and tolerance based on universal truths. For Emden, respect is based on our shared commitment to God, His commands, and His providence. Emden can serve as a model of a Rabbinic scholar willing listen and show a deep respect for another faith community and its scripture.

Emden also offers a unique model of a Rabbinic Jew reading the New Testament as part of the Jewish mission. Samson Raphael Hirsch was the Frankfort pulpit Rabbi and ideologue behind the Neo-Orthodox philosophy of remaining Torah-true while accepting the cultural, aesthetic, and intellectual mores of the wider culture. Our example here of this ideology is his acceptance of Western civil society provided that the Jewish religion serves as a light unto the nations.

And I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you, and I will make your name great; become a blessing. Genesis The people of Abraham, in private and in public, follow one calling: to become a blessing. They dedicate themselves to the Divine purpose of bringing happiness to the world by serving as model for all nations and to restore mankind to the pure spiritual status that Adam had possessed.

God will grant His blessing of the renewal of life and the awakening and enlightenment of the nations, and the name of the People of Abraham shall shine forth. Commentary on Genesis, ad loc.

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It is not only a tool by which to interpret non-Jewish religions, but serves as a consistent trope in his interpretations of the mitzvoth. Jews are to be role models, spreading the enlightenment of experienced, non-intellectual knowledge of God to all. Hirsch bases this theology on his direct readings of the words of scripture mediated by the thirteenth-century commentary of Rabbi David Kimkhi, who had already explained the verses as teaching that the goal of Judaism is to be a Light unto the Nations.

There is no talk of roots and branches, but rather of models and influences. These traits make him a useful starting point for contemporary Jewish theologies without metaphysics. His writings embrace modernism by offering a vision of the restored land of Israel, at once evolutionary and Hegelian while at the same time mystical and messianic.

His influence is widespread and influential as a Zionist dream of renewal of religious Judaism. As for other religions, in my opinion, it is not the goal of Israel's light to uproot or destroy them, just as we do not aim for the general destruction of the world and all its nations, but rather their correction and elevation, the removal of dross.

Then, of themselves, they shall join the Source of Israel, from whence a dew of light will flow over them. Iggrot ha-Rayah It is necessary to study all the wisdoms in the world, all ways of life, all different cultures, along with the ethical systems and religions of all nations and languages, so that, with greatness of soul, one will know how to purify them all. Arpelei Tohar Rav Kook acknowledges that other nations have other religions, and that many of them are based on the Torah.


He obviously does not mean Torah in the narrow sense, but recognition that religions bring God's presence into the world. The precise meaning and method of purifying the other religions is left unanswered, shrouded behind the vision of renewal. One can encounter and empirically study them.

Yet, it is a Jewish task to purify these other religions. The actual process, however, of study, purification, and unification is left frustratingly vague. The Historical inclusivist approach enables Judaism to respect and appreciate Islam and Christianity on its own terms, if not on theirs. Like its metaphysical variation, it transforms the millennia of Diaspora into part of the redemptive progress of history, with all that entails for remembering and feeling the pains accumulated along the way.

In this second variation of the inclusive approach, non-Jewish religion finds its place not as part of a historical progression, but in the metaphysical realm. Other religions will be seen not as means of bringing individuals or nations to God the historical approach but as binding themselves to metaphysical realms just as Israel is bound to God. The drama we see here on Earth is just a manifestation or epiphenomenon of the metaphysical situation. Rabbi Yosef Gikkitila, one of the foremost Kabbalists of the thirteenth century, was the author of the classic introduction to Jewish theosophy, Gates of Light.

The ability to differentiate attributes of God into a vertical hierarchy allows him to differentiate religions. When God unites with Israel and one merges with the other, then all the heavenly princes will be made into one group to worship God, may He be Blessed. They will all serve the community of Israel, because it is from her that they will be sustained. In classical contexts, it enables a distinction between direct Divine providence granted to Jews, and the indirect guidance granted through the ministering angels to the other nations.

Here, Gikkitila is adding the notion of the Divine names. The apparent implication is that the religions of the gentiles provide access to some of the names of God, even if not as directly as does Judaism, which connects Israel to the greatest and most powerful of names, YHVH. All the nations are sustained by the single Divine name, only known in the other religions through a glass darkly. Therefore there is one single God of creation; currently that unified perspective is veiled but eventually God will reveal Himself fully to all. There are many variants on this approach; all of them accepting metaphysical structures.

See R. Elijah Benamozegh below as an example. These metaphysical constructs indicate a basis for Jewish-Christian respect and encounter not predicated on any of the non-religious principals of modernity. In this, it might be a particularly useful basis for discussions with metaphysically-inclined churches; I can envision a mutual encounter with the Greek Orthodox Church concerning theories of Divine glory, blessings and energies. However, metaphysical models are limited in their utility in an era where few embrace, or even understand, metaphysical language.

Premising our encounter on a theology of angels and the power of Divine names would not be prudent for a Jewish community which put little stock in either.


This position looks neither ahead to the future conclusion of history nor up to the supernal realm. Rather, it understands other religions by looking around in the present and back to the past: We are all children of Adam, created in the image of God and in relation with God. Lacking eschatology and metaphysics, this position proved particularly popular in the latter part of the 20 th century. Ovadiah Seforno was a rabbi, rabbinic scholar, exegete, and philosopher in Renaissance Italy.

He is noted for teaching Torah to gentiles, and dedicating his theological work, Light of the Nations , to King Henry of England. He suggests that Christians share with Jews this universal relationship with God and all humanity is the chosen people. However, after the Fall of Adam when humanity turned towards materialism, then Jews and the pious of the other nations are more special. He uniquely proffers only a quantitative difference between Judaism and the other faiths. And you shall be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation unto Me. For Seforno, all humanity is beloved by God and chosen from amongst all creation.

As Zephaniah has prophecied, the nations will in messianic times all call upon God. As we have seen, for the exclusivist thinkers, Judaism is the sole path to God; those who are not Jews are at best bystanders in the Divine scheme, and at worst antagonists. This view can be found in some Talmudic texts and in many later commentators. Rabbi Shlomo ben Yitzhak, the great eleventh-century commentator on the Bible and Talmud is a standard in the Jewish curriculum.

Because Rashi is seen as the indispensable commentator, it is difficult to overstate his influence on contemporary discourse. He cites many of the polemical and negative rabbinic statements about gentiles or their typological equivalents in Noah, Esau, and Bilaam. Even his very first comment on the Bible contains his own gloss on the Midrash, viewing the gentiles as armed robbers. Commentary to Exodus Rashi typified the particularism of many of his successors in Franco-German Jewish culture. I will not delineate these variants, nor will I relate all the negative images of Christianity left in the writings of medieval Ashkenaz Jewry.

Sifthei Hakhamim , by Rabbi Shabbatai Bass, a sixteenth-century commentary on Rashi, consistently reworks Rashi to impose a more ethical reading. However, the role of these comments of Rashi in the Jewish education system today remains problematic. Rabbi Yehudah ben Betzalel Loewe c. Maharal built his theology more on Midrash with its apocalyptic and typological themes than on Biblical or philosophic universalism.

The ancient struggles of Israel with the seven wicked nations and Amalek are ever with us.

At the beginning, Israel is connected to the nations like a shell around a fruit. At the end, the fruit is separated from the shell completely and Israel is separated from them. Gevurat Hashem Maharal embraces separation and particularism. Zevi Yehudah Kook was the son of Rav Kook, he was blessed with a long life and many students. His ideology makes him the father of the settler movement and therefore influential in late twentieth-century Israeli political life. The ideology itself is noteworthy for a staunch anti-Christianity that culls two millennia of sources without acknowledging any of the countervailing traditions.

For Zevi Yehudah Kook, the attack on Christianity is motivated by the conflict with the wider Western culture which both threatens the Jewish purity of Israel from within and opposes his messianic settlement drive from without. Until now, none of his writings on Christianity have been translated into English; because I do not want to be his first translator, I am presenting his views in summary only. Zevi Yehudah Kook resurrects many of the classic anti-Christian polemics with a vigor not seen for centuries.

Christianity is the refuse of Israel, in line with the ancient Talmudic portrayals of Jesus as boiling in excrement. If asked: What about the many arguments that, despite the falsity of Christian truth claims, the religion still constitutes a path to God? Like Wahabi Fundamentalism within Islam, Zevi Yehudah denies the continuous relevance of the cosmopolitan ages of synthesis, choosing instead to return to the polemical Midrash and Maharal.

Why was his position formulated at the end of the twentieth century? His theology shows the change that comes about from living in a non-Diaspora context that enables this rejection of western culture. The state of Israel can lead to a secure acceptance of the other, especially other religions, or it can also allow for a complete xenophobic rejection. Here too the real realm of action is not this world, with individual people and nations, but the metaphysical realm of primal and cosmic forces.

In this schema, Israel represents cosmic good; the nations represent the primal evil. And while this trend tends to reject philosophy as universal, it should not be considered in accord with the mainstream Kabbalah of Gikkitila or Cordovero. The predominant source for these sentiments is the writings of the Kabbalist rabbi Isaac Luria who stated that gentiles do not have souls. Israel is locked into a cosmic battle of Kabbalistic redemption and earthly gentile impurity. Our continuous sins cause us to descend into the shells instead of redeeming ourselves. For Luria, the historical situation of exile is a manifestation of the cosmic reality of rupture and evil.

The gentiles are not merely the Other, or the anti-Israel, as in the less metaphysical approaches of Rashi; they are the same stuff as the evil at the beginning of creation. While the influence of Luria on subsequent Jewish history has been overstated, his notion that non-Jews lack souls was a significant, and dangerous, innovation. It moved the exclusivity of Rashi to a new and potentially dangerous realm. Dualism has room for rereading. This dualism needs to be reread from our vantage of connection to the classic texts.

In the first half of the nineteenth century, Rabbi Zvi Hirsch Chajes dealt with these texts by claiming that rabbinic texts were written in a binary black and white, good and evil style for didactic purposes. An example of the possibilities of rereading can be seen in the history of the statements in Tanya written by R.

Schneur Zalman of Liady, the founder of the Chabad Hasidic dynasty. He clearly states at the beginning of his work Likkute Amarim Tanya that, as presented in Lurianic writings, gentiles do not have souls. Nevertheless, this dualistic statement was transformed by later generations of Chabad thinkers into a historical inclusivism, in which the gentiles today are part of the messianic progress; or into a hierarchal inclusivism, in which the gentiles have greater needs to purify themselves. Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneersohn , the seventh leader of Chabad Hasidism, armed with a messianic sense of current era, wanted to bring Hasidism even to the gentiles of America.

He does not need to rewrite the offensive text because, for him, since times have changed, the text does not apply. All gentiles are now seen as capable of appreciating the Divine light of Torah. He was also in favor of school prayer and acknowledged the Christian and civil religion of America as a necessary moral force. In some of his homilies he even invokes "in God we trust" printed on United States currency as showing that we share one God.

The "spreading of the wellsprings" of Chassidic teachings should not be limited to Jews alone, but should be extended outward to non-Jews as well. Similarly, he writes that every Jew is obliged to try and influence those who are not Jewish to fulfill the Seven Laws of Noah. Maimonides also states that one of the achievements of the Messiah will be to spiritually refine and elevate the nations of the world until they, too, become aware of God to the point where Godliness will be revealed to every flesh, non-Jews.

Since the rewards of Torah come "measure for measure" it follows that among the efforts to bring the messianic age must be the effort to spread the Seven Laws of Noah, as well as the wellsprings of Chassidic teachings associated with them, outward to non-Jews.

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Indeed, the Prophets tell us, "Nations shall walk in your light. It was important to take the trouble to present these rereading, even though many modern Jews do not have an interest in Hasidic doctrine, in order to show that even seemingly impossible to reread texts can be reread, even by conservative thinkers.

Universalism Position 1 -Intellectual- outside revelation. Immanuel of Rome was a philosophically trained poet of thirteenth-century Italy, a student of Zerachia Hen, a confrere to Dante, and an antagonist of the more traditional Rabbi Hillel of Verona. Hence, he is not an authoritative text for traditional thought. Nevertheless, he allows us a glimpse of the forces that shaped traditional Jewish thought, in that, his thirteenth-century critic Hillel of Verona formulated an inclusive humanism that was to influence the position of Rabbi Ovadiah Seforno discussed above.

He also shows us that universalist positions are not limited to the modern era or due to post Enlightenment ideas of tolerance, liberalism, and secularism. The rewarded saints observed by the narrator of the epic have reached their non-Jewish paradise through intellectual reasoning. For Immanuel of Rome, paradise can be reached through a universal path consisting of self-discovery and intellectual discovery.

The various forms of traditional religion, each with its own particular ethnicity, theology, and approach to naming God, pale before the universal truth. These are the pious among the gentile state. A nd as they passed the Faiths of all other under examination. But they chose of all beliefs views such as seemed to them right,. Upon which men versed in conscience had no cause to fight. And when men boastfully would attach a name to God, our hearts trembled, it shook our frame to think that each and every people should give Him some definite name.

We, however say, Be His name whatsoever, we believe in the First Existence, the True One, whom we never from our life can ever sever. As we have seen in the inclusivist position, the Bible has universal, prophetic elements. At times, these elements were emphasized and elaborated by later Jewish thinkers. While this is not a multi-covenant theology, this strand of Rabbinic thought paves the way for such a possibility. The prophet Elijah said: I call heaven and earth to bear witness that anyone -- Jew or gentile, man or woman, slave or handmaid -- if his deeds are worthy, the Divine Spirit will rest upon him.

Tanna Debai Eliyahu When the Holy one Blessed be He, revealed himself to give the Torah to Israel, he revealed himself not only to Israel but to all the other nations. Sifrei Devarim Nathaniel ibn Fayumi. An example of a medieval who makes use of these themes is the twelfth-century Yemenite Nathaniel Ibn Fayumi who presents a multi-covenant theory without the need to justify or defend it.

God sends a prophet to every people according to their own language. Their own ethical laws have been their own formulations of revelation, the Noahide laws, and providence. Judaism does not say, "There is no salvation outside of me. In particular, they have been at pains to stress that, while in other respects their views and ways of life may differ from those of Judaism, the peoples in whose midst the Jews are now living have accepted the Jewish Bible of the Old Testament as a book of Divine revelation.

They profess their belief in the God of heaven and earth as proclaimed in the bible and they acknowledge the sovereignty of Divine Providence in both this life and the next. Their acceptance of the practical duties incumbent upon all men by the Will of God distinguishes these nations from the heathen and idolatrous nations of the Talmudic era. The Torah calls Israel a treasured nation. However, this does not imply, as some have mistakenly assumed, that Israel has a monopoly on God's love and favor. On the contrary, Israel's most cherished ideal is that of the universal brotherhood of mankind.

Nineteen Letters of Ben Uzziel , t r.

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Bernard Drachman [New York, ], p. For Hirsch, there is one true and loving God over all humanity and we are all part of one brotherhood. He does not seek to define these terms based on narrow Rabbinic parameters but on the acceptance of the practical duties of mankind. He wrote:. There is a legend that, when Adam and Eve were turned out of Eden or earthy paradise, an angel smashed the gates, and the fragments flying all over the earth are the precious stones. We can carry the legend further. The precious stones were picked up by the various religions and philosophers of the world.

Each claimed and claims that its own fragment alone reflects the light of heaven, forgetting the setting and incrustations which time has added. Patience my brother. In God's own time we shall, all of us, fit our fragments together and reconstruct the gates of paradise. There will be an era of reconciliation of all living faiths and systems, the era of all being in at-one-ment, or atonement, with God. Through the gates shall all people pass to the foot of God's throne. Here we have an Orthodox thinker who clearly affirms a common core of all religions, which over time became encrusted and thereby lead to devolution of various faiths.

The Biblical vision of becoming a light unto the nations is as part of a joint effort to worship together. The eventual goal is a messianic restoration to Eden. Volume Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. E-mail: kesslers vt. Oxford Academic. Google Scholar. Cite Citation.

The role of Judaism in Samuel Hirschs understanding of the state

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