A Jewish Discourse on Interfaith Respect

6 min read

Image: Rabbi Tovia Singer

“Sharing the Depths of Jewish Wisdom: Teaching Torah To The Nation’s Without Compromising Belief”

The Holy Torah provides us with a clear guide on how to navigate relationships with other individuals and communities, including New Testament believers. As an Orthodox Jew, we are taught not to hate the New Testament believers or any person, but rather to reject idolatry. The Talmud in tractate Avodah Zarah elaborates on this, warning Jews against participating in non-Jewish religious rites or even being present when such rites are taking place, as it may appear as though they are condoning idolatry. However, it is crucial to distinguish between hating idolatrous practices and hating the practitioners themselves.

To better understand this, let’s consider the commentary by Rashi on Leviticus 19:17, “You shall not hate your kinsfolk in your heart.” Rashi explains that harboring hate in one’s heart against anyone, even those who err religiously, is strictly forbidden. We should not harbor ill-will against New Testament believers, but we should fight against the ideas of New Testament that contradict our own monotheistic beliefs.

The principle of “there is none but He”, reverberates deeply in Jewish theology, and finds its roots in the Shema prayer. It asserts the absolute oneness of God, excluding the existence of any other deity. This unity transcends the physical and metaphysical realms, rendering everything else as merely a part of His existence. We are, in essence, projections of His divine reality, and thus to disrespect another person is indeed, in a profound sense, to disrespect God Himself.

The Baal Shem Tov, teaches that every encounter is divinely ordained. Therefore, our interaction with every individual, regardless of their beliefs, should be seen as an opportunity to perceive and respect God’s oneness. This viewpoint transforms our approach from one of opposition to one of education and respectful dialogue.

The great sage Hillel echoes this sentiment in his famous adage, “What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow.” This is the essence of the Torah; the rest is commentary. In other words, the fundamental ethos of Torah is to treat others as we would like to be treated. We are encouraged to spread light, love, and understanding in the world. When we embody these values, we truly become vessels for Divine wisdom and love.

In this short video: Rabbi Yaron Reuven, says: “Don’t insult Xtians,” but it’s a mitzvah to mock the idol.

Our generation, like many before it, is zealous. We are eager to uphold the Torah and its commandments. However, we must ensure that our zeal does not lead us astray. Even Pinchas, celebrated for his zeal, and needed divine intervention.

Remember, just as HaShem doesn’t need us, but desires us, so too we must strive to connect with others, not because we need to, but because we desire to. We should want to bring all people closer to the truth, to the realization of the unity of God. And the best way to do this is by embodying the divine attributes of kindness, compassion, and mercy.

While the Torah clearly instructs us not to hate, it does instruct us to destroy idols. This, however, does not mean we should physically attack idols or their worshippers. Instead, we should strive to dismantle the ideologies that support idolatry through respectful dialogue and education. This aligns with the principle of ‘Love your fellow as yourself.’ Even if their beliefs differ from ours, we must remember that they too are part of God’s creation, an expression of His oneness.

It’s important to realize that while the Jewish identity is profoundly rooted in our religious beliefs, it extends beyond religion. Being Jewish is not just a faith, it’s a way of life, shaping our interactions, our decisions, and our very identity. This is true for many people of other faiths as well, including New Testament believers.

It’s a reality that we live in a multicultural and multi-religious world. In such a world, understanding and tolerance are vital. We need to learn to coexist while preserving our own identity, traditions, and beliefs. Our Rabbis have always advocated for a peaceful existence with other faiths, as long as it doesn’t compromise our own beliefs. The Rambam, for instance, ruled that it is permissible to teach Torah to non-Jews who are sincerely interested in learning, emphasizing the importance of dialogue and mutual respect.

God’s oneness, His unity, is a defining characteristic of Jewish theology. His unity is not just about His singularity but about the all-encompassing nature of His existence. This unity is at the heart of our daily lives, and its implications are profound. The realization that God is one, that there is none other than He, is deeply humbling and awe-inspiring. It emphasizes our role as His creations, our complete dependence on Him, and the interconnectedness of all His creations.

Disrespecting a fellow human being, therefore, becomes a transgression of this divine unity. In essence, it’s disrespecting God. The same applies when we harbor ill-will or hatred towards another. If we bear hatred in our hearts, it’s as though we are denying God’s oneness. In the Tanya, it is stated that one who truly understands the unity of God would feel only love towards all creations.

Finally, the phrase “God is I, but I am not He” beautifully encapsulates the intricate relationship between God and His creations. God is the source of all existence, and in that sense, He is within each of us, and all around us. But, of course, we are not God. We are His creations, finite beings within His infinite existence.

In conclusion, Torah and our Sages guide us not to hate individuals, even those who believe differently, but rather to resist ideologies that contradict the Oneness of God. Our role is not to hate or fight, but to educate, respect, and illuminate. We have a sacred duty to bring the world closer to the knowledge of God, to strengthen the understanding of His unity, all while maintaining our own traditions, values, and beliefs. And this can be done through love, compassion, and respect for all of God’s creations. After all, as Rabbi Akiva taught, “Love your fellow as yourself” is a fundamental principle of the Torah.


  • The Holy Torah
  • The Talmud, Tractate Avodah Zarah
  • Commentary by Rashi on Leviticus 19:17
  • The Shema prayer
  • Teachings of the Baal Shem Tov
  • Sayings of the sage Hillel
  • Story of Pinchas in the Torah
  • Teachings of Rabbi Akiva
  • Rambam’s rulings on interactions with non-Jews
  • The Tanya, on the unity of God

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