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An essay donated by Rabbi Allen S. Maller

One God with Many Faces: A religious view of pluralism

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Judaism does not teach that there is only one way to worship, or only one way to believe. All who study Torah soon learn that there are many ways to interpret God's words. We should be able to understand that other people can truly have different interpretations of the same truth. Even higher in awareness we should understand that each of us can have different understandings of the same thing at different times, and occasionally at the same time. This is my dialogue with myself about the meaning of one verse in the Torah.

Exodus 3:2 "AN ANGEL OF THE LORD APPEARED TO HIM (Moses) IN A FLAME OF FIRE OUT OF THE MIDST OF THE BUSH. HE LOOKED AND BEHOLD THE BUSH BURNED WITH FIRE BUT THE BUSH WAS NOT CONSUMED."

What is an angel of the Lord? Rabbi Allen Maller asked himself. Why were both an angel and a bush necessary? Do the two represent two different ways of seeing the Divine human encounter?

Rabbi Allen said the angel was the flame of fire. Rabbi Maller said the angel was the bush.

Rabbi Allen felt the flame of fire portrays Divine energy. Rabbi Maller thought a bush that is not consumed represents a stiff necked people who refuse to give up and die.

Rabbi Allen said that an ever changing crackling flame of fire reflects a dynamic immaterial God. Rabbi Maller said that an unconsumed bush symbolizes the promise of a covenantal relationship that can not be used up.

Then again Rabbi Allen said, “The Torah text writes “An angel of the Lord-- in a flame”. The energy of light is an angel enlightening us. Rabbi Maller said “the bush was not consumed”. A bush burns-ordinary. A burning bush that is not consumed-extraordinary. Jews have frequently been persecuted and oppressed, so have the Gypsies in Europe, the Ainu in Japan, the untouchables in India, and many other ordinary people. The Jewish people are still here while the Assyrians, the Babylonians and the Romans who defeated them are gone-extraordinary.

Rabbi Allen proposed that an angel is an agent of the Lord and should be more like the One who sent him or her. Rabbi Maller declared that no one is like the One and only One, so an angel must be more like the receiver than the sender. An angel is a natural being, usually human, occasionally like a bush, that we realize afterwards was God's way of helping us. Occasionally an angel is a spiritual being. An agent can be like a tool but a tool is not an agent.

Rabbi Allen taught that just as a fire provides both light and warmth so too does God inspire Torah teachings and Mitsvot -- responsible activities. 1 Rabbi Maller taught that a bush represents the spiritual human values of humility (because it is lowly) and pluralism (because it has no one trunk).

Who is more important the play-write or the actors, the composer or the musicians?

Rabbi Allen says- without the former the latter are nothing.

Rabbi Maller says-without the latter the former is impotent.

“Both must be together in an interactive mutual relationship like a coach and his/her team; like husband and wife, like Guru and disciple, like God and Israel.” says Rabbi Allen Maller.

Footnote:

  1. A Mitsvot (a.k.a. Mitzvot, or Mitzvah) is a precept or commandment of Jewish law. There are 615 Mitsvot in the Torah -- the first five books of the Hebrew Scriptures. A list of the 613 Mitsvot is available online at Judaism 101. See: http://www.jewfaq.org

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First posted: 2013-JUN-02
Latest update: 2013-JUL-20
Author: Rabbi Allen S. Maller

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