Monday, May 14, 2012

Pluralism

I finished Joseph Telushkin's A Code of Jewish Ethics, Volume 2: Love Your Neighbor As Yourself.  I have three items:

1.  On page 434, Telushkin states: "One upshot of Rabbi Meir's teaching is that parents should not try to make all their children alike or copies of themselves.  Rather, as Proverbs teaches, 'Raise a child according to his way' (22:6; emphasis added).  Observe your child carefully, and support her interests and enthusiasms in order to develop her potential."

The KJV translates Proverbs 22:6 as "Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it."  And the KJV for Proverbs 22:6 was what I heard when I was growing up: that parents should teach their children the way they should go. The problem, of course, was that there were children who grew up and departed from the way that their parents taught them, especially when that "way" was religious.  One way that Christians tried to explain that away was to say that Proverbs 22:6 was a truism or a general principle rather than a promise.  And some essentially rewrote the verse to say that, if you give a child a religious upbringing, the child will grow up and eventually come back to God, even if she departed from the path for a time.


Literally, however, the first part of the verse reads, "Train a child according to his way."  As you can see, Telushkin takes that to mean that parents should encourage children in their (the children's) interests and talents.  A friend of mine had another interpretation of Proverbs 22:6: that it means that tolerating a child as he walks in his evil path (his way, according to nature) will set the child on a path of evil from which he won't depart.  The idea, for my friend, is that parents should teach their children so that they don't walk in their own way, but rather according to the right and moral way.

2.  On page 440, Telushkin refers to a statement by the sixteenth century Rabbi Judah Lowe, who said in Be'er Ha-Golah 2:424-426:

"If a person does not intend to goad, only to convey his faith, even if his words are opposed to your own faith and your own religion, you should not say to him: 'Do not speak and keep your words to yourself...'  On the contrary, let him speak as much as he wants...Reason requires that nothing be hindered, that no mouth be closed, and that religious dispute be open for everybody...This is the only way by which men can reach ultimate truth.  Any proponent who wants to overcome his opponent and demonstrate his own correctness would very much want his opponent to confront him to the utmost..."

It's for reasons such as these that I support freedom of speech.  I think that the Supreme Court was right not to ban Hillary: The Movie due to campaign finance regulations, for, when different voices are allowed, we arrive at the truth.  At the same time, having more money means having more opportunities for your speech to be heard, and that does concern me.  There should be avenues for people without much money to speak.  Blogs are one means, but what if someone doesn't have a computer?  Perhaps he can use a computer in the library.


3.  On pages 441-442, Telushkin quotes the pluralistic teachings of Sir Jonathan Sacks, who was Great Britain's chief rabbi.  Sacks wrote a book entitled The Dignity of Difference, and he states: "Judaism is a particularist monotheism.  It believes in one God but not in one religion, one culture, one truth.  The God of Abraham is the God of all mankind, but the faith of Abraham is not the faith of all mankind...God is God of all humanity, but no single faith should be the faith of all humanity...God no more wants all faiths and cultures to be the same than a loving parent wants his or her children to be the same."

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