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Each of these texts represents an entire theological position, a world-view within which the question of other religions is only one aspect. These are real positions that to this day remain live options for Jews seeking a theological direction. At their core, these texts all reflect the Classical philosophical tradition, which, in Islamic translation, inspired the very first formal Jewish theologies of the Gaonic period. Philosophy distinguishes between the essence and the attribute. Recognition of the essential creates the possibility of tolerance and respect, the acknowledgement that we share a common, universal focus, in which the differences between us are only secondary attributes.

Encountering the Medieval in Modern Jewish Thought by James A. Diamond, Hardcover | Barnes & Noble®

In order to come to terms with the current clash of civilizations and the increasing tensions between forces of globalization and those of tradition, we need to view the conflict as a moral challenge that cannot be considered as resolved through a survival of the fittest or through demonologizing the other sides. I reject the solution of meeting as secular people; I want doctrine to serve as meeting place of encounter with our globalization.

In the current age, no longer do people shelve their religion in encountering others. Facing others in a post-secular age, therefore, means that we must choose the moderate positions in our own tradition as a basis for discussion. Traditional texts offer enough resources to make this possible. Hence, my starting point is not the traditions of liberalism and tolerance based on secular eighteenth century ideas, nor is my goal to hammer tolerance into the tradition for pragmatic reasons.

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Starting with liberalism is not useful for a traditional orthodox approach because it claims that our lives are really secular, and it ignores textual sources. Hence, I will not emphasize the tolerant position of the thirteenth century author, Rabbi Menachem Meiri, which considers other faith communities as religions worthy of tolerance without a theory of other religions. Instead in this paper, I go back to our own tradition for new resources and present a range of traditional sources which bearing on the conceptualization by Judaism about other religions.

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Let me explain. For the exclusivist, one's own community, tradition, and encounter with God is the one and only exclusive truth; all other claims on encountering God are a priori false. The pluralist takes the opposite tack, accepting that no one tradition can claim to possess the singular truth. In between is the inclusivist who acknowledges that there are many communities with their own traditions and truths, but maintains the importance of his own way of seeing thing as culminating, subsuming, or perfecting all other truths. For the inclusivist, other religions are explained by his own religion.

He acknowledges a world outside his own, but relies on his own worldview to make it comprehensible and give it meaning. He speaks the language of his own theology, and uses its vocabulary to describe outsiders.

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In this, he differs from the pluralist, who will address others in their own language. The pluralist can be criticized for trying stepping outside his own religious language rather than pushing its boundaries, but can be admired for naming others in their own terms. The pluralist accepts that truth is not in the possession of any one tradition, understanding religion as a way of approaching, rather than defining and naming, God. He accepts his limitations in understanding the wider world and believes God is present and active within the world.

For the exclusivist, the other religions are simply false. Each of these three positions has a different root within the origins of Judaism. The exclusivist model is true to certain Rabbinic strands honed on the anvil of exile. The inclusivist model draws from other Rabbinic strands, and is strongly rooted in Biblical sources, particularly messianic texts such as Isaiah. The pluralist view has some Biblical roots, and also emerges from the theological elaboration of the consequences of Creation.

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For an example of how each of these positions can play out theologically, let me look at how the Shema can be imagined differently for each of the positions. And for the universalist, it speaks of a Unity of God so profound that all are included. As religious Jews, we need not always choose one position over the others; each can play a role in our religious lives. There will be days when our recitation of Shema will carry universalistic intentions, and days where we will close our eyes and think exclusively.

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  6. I am using models of theological positions. Some figures will have their statements divided between several categories. Others will be subdivided in the same category, since each of the three categories can be further subdivided into historical-mission, metaphysical, and humanist, these subdivisions will be explained in the course of presenting the texts.

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    Before examining the particular sources at hand, I would like to provide an abbreviated overview of the views toward non-Jews to be found within the Tanakh and the Rabbinic corpus. The Tanakh demands that Jews have no foreign gods, and points out the foolishness and abomination of heathen practices. Nonetheless, gentiles are generally allowed to worship gods. Zephaniah and Zechariah offer an eschatological vision of all people serving one God.

    There is a distrust of gentiles as an ethnic other; so much so that one should avoid even receiving a haircut from a gentile. Greco-Roman religion is the subject of disrespect and disdain from the Talmudic Sages, who suggest obscene variations on the names of the ancient deities. Yet the Talmud maintains a category of virtuous gentiles who merit the world to come; despite the general anti-gentile opprobrium, the rabbis seems willing to adopt the view that "some of my best friends are pagans. The interpretive tradition. Medieval Jewish philosophy understood the Biblical and rabbinic texts as teaching an articulated doctrine of God's uniqueness.

    This monotheism allowed them to treat the first cause of philosophy, Christian Trinitarians, and all other people of faith as having one essential unique God, even though they might have an incorrect view of the attributes of God. The question within traditional texts is how to articulate the strengths and defects of the other positions. And how will the correct doctrine be known? This variation on inclusivism maintains that Judaism has a messianic mission to spread the doctrine of monotheism throughout the world. Yehuda Halevi lived in the twelfth century, heir to Spanish philosophical and poetic traditions. The work has been popular over the centuries and is still read today by students seeking a guide to basics of Jewish theology. Israel among the nations is like a heart among the organs of the body. It is the healthiest, as well as the one most prone to disease.

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    As the verse [Amos ] states, "Only you have I known from all of the families of the earth; therefore shall I punish you for your iniquities. Similarly, all religions that came after the Torah of Moses are part of the process of bringing humanity closer to the essence of Judaism, even through they appear its opposite. The nations serve to introduce and pave the way for the long-awaited messiah. He is the fruit and they, in turn, will all become his fruit when they acknowledge him. Then all nations will become one tree, recognizing the common root they had previously scorned.

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    Other religions share a common root of Judaism; all religions are of the same tree with Judaism as the trunk. Many misread Yehudah Halevi's position as teaching the uniqueness of Judaism and the corollary falseness of other religions; we are true and they are wrong. However, as the above passage shows, the correct reading is that the other religions are only limbs on the trunk of Judaism. Even Halevi's limiting of prophecy to Judaism does not preclude the availability of some form of revelation for all.

    The book itself opens with a story of a king getting inspiration from God through a true dream and thereby coming to learn of the higher Mosaic revelation. While I dealt with Yehudah Halevi, some of the same sentiments are found in Maimonides' writings, embedded within a more theologically contradictory halakhic grid. The complexity of Maimonides' position is beyond the scope of this paper.

    Yaakov Emden is an exemplar of a traditionalist pulpit rabbi and talmudist in Hamburg responding to the Eighteenth century Enlightenment and ideals of tolerance all around him. He stretches the traditional inclusivist position into universal directions. 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.

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    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.