Tammuz 5771 – Are We Right? Part 2

Are We Right? Part 2 Tammuz 5771
Are We Right? Part 2
by Rabbi Dovid Orlofsky


Dear Rabbi Orlofsky,

A friend in school told me that Orthodox Jews are intolerant because we think we are the only people who are right and everyone else is wrong. What do I respond?

Name and Seminary withheld by request

Dear Friend,

Your friend is right – we do think we are right and everyone else is wrong.I certainly wouldn’t be doing what I do if I thought it was wrong!

The concept you are struggling with is relative truth. I believe one thing and you believe another and we need to respect each others positions. Judaism has never taken that approach. Let’s face it, either Yushka was the son of G-d or he wasn’t. Either we are right or the Christians are right and we are wrong. But we can’t both be right. Any good Catholic believes Jews are wrong – they have to. We rejected the son of G-d and consequently are doomed to burn in hell forever. But those two positions are irreconcilable.

Likewise, am atheist believes there is no G-d. When he and I die, one of us is going to be right and one wrong. But it is impossible that we are both right.

That is why Judaism has always been a religion of questioning. Avraham discovered Hashem by asking questions. He taught about Hashem by asking other people questions. In the marketplace of ideas we don’t shy away from confronting the truth of our positions. This is not true of all beliefs.

The same is true within Judaism. Either G-d dictated the Torah to Moshe and every word is Divine, or it was pasted together during the missing 150 years of Jewish history. But both stories can not be true.

How we reconcile this with machlokes within Orthodox Judaism, is a question for next month.

Dear Friend,

Last time we talked about the fact that Jews think we are right and every other religion is wrong. We left off with the problem of machlokes within Orthodoxy. How can this be reconciled with the principle of either I am right or you are?

The answer lies in the nature of the machlokes. Either there is a G-d or not, either He gave the Torah on Mount Sinai or He didn’t. These are irreconciable positions.

However the gemera in Gittin brings the story of Pilegesh B’Givah and offers two possible reasons why the man got angry. The gemera reconciles the two views and explain Elu V’elu divrei Elokim chaim, both are right. So sometimes a machlokes is presenting two aspects of the same issue.

Othertimes this won’t work. In an issue where one person says it’s permitted and the other says you get the death penalty, it is hard to reconcile those two positions. But we will look at another approach to understand this next month.


Dovid Orlofsky