Letters Dec. 2007
Just be Good
Reader: Dear Mesora, I have this question. I just read your article on interfaith dialogue, that there is only one, correct religion and that G-d wanted there to be one religion among the world. How does this jive with the Jewish view of not doing missionary work? If you are trying to show people that Judaism is correct for everyone, is that not being a missionary? Do we not believe that people can be good human beings and that others have their responsibility, different from ours?
Mesora: You must know that God gave only one religion to the world: Judaism. Rabbi Israel Chait wrote a wonderful article explaining the proof. You may read it here: www.mesora.org/torahfromsinai.html. His article clearly demonstrates that there is only one Divinely-given system for all mankind.
You ask a few questions. Regarding missionary work, you are correct: Judaism does not endorse missionaries, as God desires man to engage free will alone, and not be coerced by any other source than his or her own reasoning.
But let's define "missionary". Missionaries are those individual who: 1) approach others in a one-on-one fashion, and 2) attempt to convert them to their religion, at any cost. They don't seek truth, but the conversions of others. If you demonstrate to a missionary they are wrong, most times they will become angry, since they have no arguments with which to defend themselves. Therefore, all they have left to create a "justified" display of their position, is anger. In truth, anger, yelling, and all emotional responses are attempts by the missionary – and others – to feign their correctness, when all else fails. If an argument does not convey a truth, the right thing to do is abandon that position. But a missionary cannot do that, as he or she is not driven by reason, by by the objective of converting others.
Therefore, publishing an article is not acting as a missionary, certainly when the author would retract a position when shown wrong. And God does demand the Jew to make Torah available to those Gentiles who wish to learn their commands, and more, if they wish to observe more. Therefore, speaking the truth that only one religion exists is in fact God's will, and must be done.
You also asked whether people can be "good human beings". Apparently you mean 'without' Torah. The answer is no. God never asked man to simply be good. He gave 613 commands to Jews, and the Noachide laws to Gentiles. Those Noachide laws are part of the 613. So in essence, there is one system, part of which Gentiles must observe. And there is no other system "different" than ours, as you mentioned. Gentiles possess the identical laws we have, albeit fewer. So for any person, simply being good is not an option, since much more is required, and primarily because "good" must be God's definition.
And what exactly is being "good"? Does this mean man acts as his subjective morals tell him? In that case, the doctors who treated Arafat as he ebbed away were doing "good". They felt they were doing the right thing. But had they studied God's knowledge written in the Torah that murderers are to be killed, not healed, they would have acted differently. So it can be quite dangerous to the world, if man simply acts as he feels what "good" is. But man cannot conjure up a definition of good. This can only be defined by the Creator of morality. Therefore, without adhering to Torah commandments, a person will not be good. He cannot be good, as Arafat's doctors displayed.
Mesora: As the Gentile holidays roll around, it has become a Jewish phenomenon to dine out on Christmas, and celebrate the Gentile New Year. I wish to point out some subtle corruptions in this Jewish behavior.
There is – in all of us – the feeling of jealousy: we cannot tolerate that the entire world is celebrating a family holiday, why we have a typical day. The phenomenon of Jews dining out on Christmas might in some cases be simply a free day to get together. This of course is fine. But there can lurk beneath – in some of us – an emotional response to “compete”. I mention this as a suggestion that we introspect on this point. Dismiss it if it is false in you. But admit of it and remove it if you sense some truth.
But the New Year’s celebration is a clear corruption, beyond doubt. As Jews, we are not to celebrate Jesus’ bris. We are not to imbibe alcohol to the point of drunkenness. Even on Purim, Maimonides teaches that we drink and go to sleep to fulfill the mitzvah.
As a wise Rabbi taught, over all else, our intellects are to remain in the state where Torah learning is possible. Getting drunk on New Years celebrates wrong ideas, it is an act of assimilation, and it is time wasted from Torah study.
Instead of drinking with idolatrous Gentiles – which itself is prohibited – make plans to study with your child, wife, parent, or a friend.
Do not think that my argument is foolish, since "so many Jews celebrate". You know this is a poor argument, since you do not join the masses and become Christian. If these arguments don't wash with you, then think about the statistics of how many people die in automobile accidents every single December 31st. Then consider that you can be one of these statistics. And even if you don't drink...don't drive. The highways this night are a free-for-all of drunks. You are but a moving target for drivers who may not even be conscious to know you are directly in their headlights.