By Simon Rocker
January 20, 2012
A number of rabbis here have been talking about an article in the latest edition of Tradition, the American journal of Orthodox thought published by the mainstream Rabbinical Council of America.
It is written by Alan Jotkowitz, who is director of the Jakobovits Centre for Medical Ethics at Ben Gurion University, and is a critique of the interfaith views of Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks.
The author is an admirer of the Chief Rabbi whom he describes as “probably the world’s most foremost expositor of Jewish values and ethics”.
Nevertheless, he questions whether the Chief Rabbi’s attitude towards other religions has strayed too far from conventional rabbinic positions.
The title of the article describes Sacks’s theology as “radical” – generally not a term of commendation in these circles.
Jotkowitz focuses mostly on the Chief’s 2002 book, The Dignity of Difference (which was subsequently revised after leading strictly Orthodox rabbis branded it heretical). Comments such as “In heaven there is truth; on earth there are truths” – rewritten in the second edition – lent credence to the truth claims of other faiths, according to the Chief Rabbi’s critics.
But Jotkowitz is not wholly convinced by the revisions and argues that the Chief’s ideas remains theologically problematic.
In contrast, Jotkowitz says that Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik “makes it clear that a Jew has to believe that his or her faith is supreme and there is an absolute truth to that faith, even at the expense of the beliefs of other religions”.