Monday, May 4, 2009

Tolerance and Ideas In Jewish Christian Relations

I just started reading this book that was originally written in German by Rabbi Dr. Leo Adler. The books name is The Biblical View Of Man. He was in the Mir yeshiva when it was in Lithuania and Shanghai. After the war, he became the Rabbi of the Jewish community in Basel, Switzerland. In his book is a letter from 1966 that he wrote in response to a request from Father Theodor Bogler, the editor of a Christian Journal, to contribute a Jewish interpretation of Christmas. His letter states that he did not feel comfortable contributing. However, the elegance and class with which the letter is written is remarkable. Also, I think it is very important for Jewish people to read as well as the Christians that read the letter when it was published in their journal. (The Journal was Liturgie und Monchtum). The letter states,

"Most honored Father,

I thank you for your friendly letter of May 24 and the invitation to contribute to the Christmas edition of Liturgie und Monchtum a piece on the Jewish attitude to the Christian festival of Christmas. Although I very much appreciate your friendly offer, I must reject it. If as you write, you heard of me through my booklet The Biblical View of Man, then if you reread the chapter on "The Transformed View of Man in Apocryphal Literature" you will understand that the idea of a G-D who reaches out to man, turning himself into man and flesh so as to reach man because man can no longer manage to reach G-D and, indeed, was never in his history capable of doing so - that this idea is of apocryphal origin and is diametrically opposed to the ancient biblical tradition of man being equipped with freedom and, thereby, with the strength and righteousness needed to find his way along the path to G-D.

Accordingly, the Christian interpretation of the Christmas festival is an impossible notion for Jewish theology, not only a question of a religion's attitude. Notwithstanding all the moral and ethical commonalities, which result both from Christianity's Jewish origin and from the recent renewed Christian attention to the Bible, we must not lose sight of that which divides us - which is nowhere more obvious than in connection with the Christmas festival, which for professing Christians has not only a symbolic meaning, but also a religious reality of the highest order.

Far be it from me, therefore, to oppose the certainty of Christian belief with that of Jewish belief, something which anyway would do you no service.

So I would ask you to leave it at that, with no other alternative in a situation in which each of us perceives G-D and seeks his own share in Him in his own way.

Yours, with friendly regards,
Rabbi Leo Adler"

There are a few things that are very important to point out about this letter. First of all, he points out that, according to Judaism, man is equipped with all of the tools to find his way on the path towards G-D. This means that in any situation a man finds himself there is always room to believe in G-D and follow his ways. No Jew should ever feel that it is an impossibility to connect to G-D, there is always a way, one just has to search.

Another major idea here is the tolerance that he shows towards the Christians. He reveals his ability to accept the Christian belief in G-D and shows that Jews do not need to force their belief on others. He thinks that any way that someone can connect to G-D, whether it be Judaism or Christianity, a person should follow his beliefs. There should be religious tolerance and brotherly love among all religions.

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