I got it over the head from some of those nearest and dearest to me for my Erev Rosh Hashana editorial criticizing British Chief Rabbis Jonathan Sacks for having characterized Israeli policy towards the Palestinians as ``incompatible with the ideals of Judaism." Even before Rosh Hashanah began two of my children offered their opinion that the op-ed bordered dangerously close to lashon hara. And a few days later, one of Har Nof’s leading young talmidei chachamim, who has frequently written to compliment me on one piece or another, expressed his view that any psychological/characterological analysis of why the Chief Rabbi might have been led to speak as he did is forbidden. Stick to his statements and why you disagree, he told me.
Strangely, this unexpected criticism left me elated, for it brought home clearly what an elevated society we live in, and how refined are its sensitivities when it comes to matters of speech. The fact that someone has erred, even to the detriment of the collective Jewish people, I was reminded, does not provide his critics with carte blanche to employ all their ammunition, be it true or false, against him.
While I accept the strictures of those who criticized certain comments in the earlier piece, it unfortunately appears that the interview given by Rabbi Sacks to the Guardian, as a preface to a serialization of his new book The Dignity of Difference, was not nearly so damaging as the book itself.
Rabbi Sack’s book is designed to demonstrate how the Torah offers a basis for peaceful co-existence in a world riven by bitter hatreds, religious and otherwise. In doing so, however, Rabbi Sacks felt compelled to distort the Torah in crucial ways and to blur the lines of distinction between Judaism and other religions. Thus he writes, ``G-d has spoken to mankind in many languages: through Judaism to Jews, Christianity to Christians, through Islam to Muslims."
The Torah describes Hashem speaking to the entire Jewish people at Sinai. That was a unique event in world history, never to be repeated. Anyone who subsequently proclaims that G-d has altered one commandment of the Torah thereby reveals himself to be a false prophet.
The Kuzari stresses, Judaism alone of the monotheistic faiths is based on a revelation to an entire people, not on the claims of a solitary figure. Yet Rabbi Sacks completely ignores that distinction. Nor does he specify where, when, or how, G-d is supposed to have spoken to Christians or Moslems.
Elsewhere, Rabbi Sacks writes that ``G-d is only partially comprehended by any faith." He makes no distinction in this regard, between Jews, who alone were given the Torah, and all other faiths. What will a rabbi in Rabbi Sacks’ United Synagogue movement tell a young Jew who wants to marry out, when that young Jew, armed with Rabbi Sack’s books, says: ``What’s the problem? Each of our faiths has only part of the truth. Together we will possess more truth."
Rabbi Sack’s now defends his book on the grounds that it was written for non-Jews. But that will not do. The book is sold in Jewish bookstores, and like any work by the Chief Rabbi, its readers will be primarily Jewish. The potential for spiritual devastation by undermining the unique identity of Jewish readers cannot be overstated.
Nor will Rabbi Sacks efforts lead to improved Jewish-Christian relations. Quite the contrary. Christians will hardly take kindly to the implicit message contained in Rabbi Sacks’ defense of his work: in matters theological, it is permitted to lie to the goyim about the Torah’s true position.
A wise rabbi was once asked: if Judaism is so great why don’t Jews proselytize. He responded that anytime one sells a product, he inevitably shapes the product to please the buyers. As proof, he pointed to Christianity, which due to its desire to win converts abolished the law of the Torah, and today bears no resemblance to its Jewish sources. The danger inherent in all such efforts at salesmanship is one that Rabbi Sacks has yet to learn.