January 16, 2019

There's More to Judaism than Commandments

“One of the areas where Dutch-Israeli Orthodox rabbi, philosopher, and Jewish scholar Nathan Lopes Cardozo differs from the Orthodox mainstream is the Torah’s commandments to annihilate whole peoples, such as the nations of Canaan and the mythical nation of Amalek, God’s proverbial enemy.

Rabbi Dr. Nathan Lopes Cardozo: I believe that in the case where moral issues come up, there, even where the Torah says that we have to annihilate these people, whether it is Amalek or the nations of Canaan, my feeling is that these were challenges given to Moses and the people to see how they would react, in the same way as Abraham reacts in the case of Sodom and Gomorrah. God says, I’m going to wipe them out, and Abraham responds: Will the Judge of the world do such a thing? And God responds by saying, You have a point, let’s see what we can work out.

And then you get this incredible dialogue, between Abraham and God on how many righteous people you need so He will keep the inhabitants alive… I think that should be the point of departure whenever we discuss moral issues in the Bible, related to our fellow man. There my feeling is that even when the Torah sometimes comes with requirements which are problematic from a moral point of view, that we have the option or even obligation, like Abraham, to say to God: Sorry, this won’t go with us. And my reading, which I understand is controversial, is that God is challenging these people: Let Me see how they’ll respond. Did you, people, understand My larger picture of righteousness? Are you understanding what I’m trying to say ? And as I did in the case of Abraham, when I challenged him by telling him I’m going to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, and Abraham correctly said, No, or at least he was willing to fight it, so I hope and expect you do as well whenever I want you to annihilate people.”

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