Yesterday, Christians were targeted and killed in Pakistan for being Christians. On Easter. My sympathies are with the victims and their families. Jews have been targeted on holidays and in synagogues before, and we know what it is like to risk our lives merely to come together in community to observe our religion.
But as has often been the case in the past, most of the victims were actually Muslim. Of course my sympathies are with them and their families, too. People living side by side with those who are different from them are the truest and greatest threat to radical Islam, and to all monomaniacs, who need there to be only one Truth, only one Law, and only one Way.
I come from a monotheistic tradition. At least it was always understood that different well-meaning people see different aspects of a Truth that, in its fullness, is more than we can grasp. I have always loved that the Talmud preserved the record of disagreements, along with the answers to moral questions.
But I am beginning to wonder whether the idea of oneness is inherently a problem. The ideas of harmony and of unity. The mystic teaching that we are ALL one. What is the moral status of the Shema, of our central affirmation of unity, of the oneness of God (and therefore, of Truth) in a multicultural world? And beyond even multicultural, as we come to know there are other animal intelligences on our planet besides ours, and as we see that biodiversity is a precious value, within species as well as in the multiplicity of different forms of life? What does it mean to say along with the prayer, “Vayom hahu yiye Adonai Echad u’Shemo Echad?” (On that day, The Lord will be One and his Name will be One).
Here is what Elie Wiesel, who knows intolerance first hand and has placed himself as a witness against it, said in a commencement address given at Dartmouth in 2006, which I was fortunate enough to attend and to hear:
“As a Jew I have learned that even when the Messiah will come (and I believe that as Jew that one day redemption must come to humanity) even then the world will not become entirely Jewish. It would be boring. But it will be simply more hospitable, caring and friendlier.”