Rabbi Sydney S. Guthman, 33
Jonathan Swift once said: "We have just enough religion to make us hate but not enough to make us love one another." Also, to apply a famous statement to religion - "What crimes are committed in thy name?"
A glance at the world scene provides ample evidence of this distortion and perversion of religion. We can find examples in Iran, Saudia Arabia, Lebanon, North Ireland, Iraq, and many other countries. In our own country, we have witnessed a gradual emergence of religious extremism which seeks to coerce the American people into a form of theological conformity. These "true believers" forget that a fundamental principle of American government is that in matters of religion we are not governed by the majority. Rather, because we separate church and state, we give equal rights to every minority.
Turning to the Jewish scene, militant ultra-orthodoxy in Israel and in this country endeavors to declare that only orthodoxy is legitimate Judaism. This is an insult to the millions of Jews who are either Conservative, Reform, Reconstructionist, or who do not adhere to any particular denomination.
Genuine religion is based on two important principles. First, there can never be a monolithic society. The Talmud points this out very clearly. The miracle or creation, says the Talmud, is that all men are created in the image of God. We all come out of one mold, and yet there are no two people in the world who are alike. Therefore, we must respect the right to disagree. Freedom of choice must be the right of all.
The second point that Judaism makes is that the world will not be saved by war and violence, but by universal love. We are not talking about sentimental emotion or erotic love. What I refer to is love in its deepest sense. It means concern for others and, ultimately, concern for one's fellowman wherever located.
Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, who certainly was one of the most Orthodox scholars of modern times, once pointed out that the first temple was destroyed because the Jews had what he called sinat hinam, unnecessary hatred. They hated each other without reason or regard for their welfare. Therefore, he said, the world will be saved only in one way, when we convert undeserved hatred to ahavat hinam, undeserved love. This principle requires us to love all people. It is easy to love those who are close to us. It is easy to love those who are just like us. Judaism, like Christianity, teaches that we must love even those who are unlovable, those who do not deserve to be loved. We must bring about, through Freemasonry and by every other means, a world in which all of us at all times will express our concern - our love - for our fellowman.
The above article is reprinted from the Jewish Community Chronicle, Long Beach, California, September 20, 1995.