book by the Chief Rabbi
Dignity of Difference: How to Avoid the Clash of Civilizations
By Jonathan Sacks
The Jewish community
in Britain has been divided in recent months over very controversial
words, written by the Chief Rabbi. In mid 2002, Chief Rabbi
of Britain, Dr. Jonathan Sacks, revealed new ideas in his
book, ‘The Dignity of Difference: How to Avoid the
Clash of Civilizations’, which started a row among
Jewish religious leaders in Britain and overseas. Overwhelmed
by the waves of harsh orthodox criticism, with many regarding
the statements as heresy, Rabbi Sacks was said to have decided
to alter, and in some cases withdraw, his words and publish
a slightly different second edition.
wrote: “In the course of history, God has spoken to
mankind in many languages: through Judaism to Jews, Christianity
to Christians and Islam to Moslems.” Further statements
received angry reactions in England and Israel such as:
“No one creed has a monopoly on spiritual truth,”
and that God “is only partially comprehended by any
Dr. Sacks has
no business equating other faiths with Judaism. The correct
view of a Chief Rabbi should be that Jehovah belongs exclusively
to Judaism, that Christianity is a corruption of Judaism
and that Islam is an over-simplification of the Jewish faith.
not a religion, but a philosophy. That and other cults,
which have no contact with Jehovah, are man-made fairy tales.
remains the unique religion of Jehovah. As for reform movements,
the view of an Orthodox Chief Rabbi should be that faith
goes further and deeper than reason, but that faith must
not contradict our God given reason.
attempt, to reach understandings with leaders of other faiths,
is desirable, but it is not the job of a chief rabbi. He
simply does not have the mandate to do so.
We should also
note, that the Pope, John Paul II, has not long ago publicly
expressed the legitimate right of Judaism and Islam to co-exist
with Christianity. It is only logical to assume that Rabbi
Sacks was trying to follow the popes footsteps. The problem
is that the Pope went about it in a completely different
way. He said:“there are many ways to Heaven”,
A rather laconic phrase, but of some depth and not of the
same meaning. The Pope reaches out to other religions without
assuming God’s authority or involvement, like Sacks
has done. The Pope refers to people and their point of view
regarding the service of the Lord. Dr. Sacks uses God for
his theory. He may have been thinking of the Biblical story
of the Tower of Babel, (Gen 11:7) when God decided to confuse
mankind by making them converse in different languages.
One of his first
responses to his critics was an offer to write a letter
explaining what he meant, then it was reported he would
make changes in a second edition. But obviously he had already
said what he meant and meant what he said. It seems rather
pointless to change these notions that have already been
published. What point would there be to it now, after the
Rabbi had made his opinion public? As the old saying goes:
“A man convinced against his will-is of the same opinion
Note 1: According
to the Oxford Dictionary “EQUATE” means :regard
as equal or equivalent.
Note 2: Dr Sacks's
second edition has now appeared with considerable changes
in the text. It is not acceptable that an author can re-write
his book, tailor-made to the wishes of the general reader.
On the 11th of June Naim Dangoor
wrote the following letter to the Chief Rabbi.
Dear Chief Rabbi
1. Israel is suffering because its creation has not brought
the Messianic Age nearer.
2. Judaism is not a proselytising religion. Its main aim
is to make all mankind acknowledge the ONE TRUE GOD.
3. In your book, "The Dignity of Difference: How to
avoid the Clash of
Civilizations", you speak of our differences. I enclose
copy of the
review of your book which appeared in my journal, The Scribe.
4. It is better to forget our differences and think of
what unites us.
5. We should acknowledge that Jews, Christians and Moslems
the same God.
6. Likewise Jews, Christians and Moslems should admit that
the God of Israel - THE ONE TRUE GOD!
7. Israel should treat Christians and Moslems as equals
to Jews in every
8. Israel and the Palestinian territories could then become
9. All three religions should then proselytise, not in
competition, but in co--
10. On the day when all mankind acknowledge the One True
Messianic Age would have come.
With my respects and best regards.
Naim Dangoor Writes:
The future for Israel & the Palestinians can be based
on autonomy for 2 peoples similar to the "millet system"
which can be a springboard for the subjugation of the whole
region. Let us pay Nebuchadnezzar a return visit.
A few days after receiving the above letter the Chief Rabbi
called me on the telephone. I started by saying, "I
hope that you had not taken offence at what I have written!"
He replied, "Heaven forbid that I should take offence
at what you have written. All what you wrote is true".
He then suggested that we should meet.
It is possible that my communication to the Chief Rabbi
may have influenced him in deciding to attend the funeral
of the wife or a reform Rabbi, which is most wise and welcome
you would like to make any comments or contribute to The
Scribe please contact