Are We Right?
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
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.