Diversity is one of most important traits of Jewish identity

Yes, diversity is one of most important traits of Jewish identity and the diversity manifests itself in three pillars of Judaism – Intellect, Halakha and Integration. And here is why and how.

As the Torah declares, we the humans are created in the “image and likeness of God”. This image is multidimensional including tree fundamental traits – God is Creator, God is Unique Individual and God is Eternal. Therefore we the humans have to be creators (from a janitor to a particle physicist), have to be unique individuals (everybody) and have to be eternal (in terms of our lasting creative achievements – professional, family-wise, social, etc.). Furthermore the Torah declares, we the Jewish people are the Chosen to help the others to live in accordance to the Torah/Bible-based “image and likeness of God”.

The Jews are discovering the “image and likeness of God”, and living along the lines of their discoveries, in three differing ways.

One way is based on an intellectual observation that God created our world perpetually changing along the lines of His unchangeable laws. In this world the individuals have to constantly search for the Torah-based God’s guidance on how to exist as human beings. Rabbis and other religious authorities are supposed to teach how to do search and make individual choices but not demand obedience to the will of human authority. Here the meaning of creative work is to develop new things what have not been in existence before. Here the people are judged individually by the results of their creative work. This approach requires living and creating together with Gentile population but being positively distinguished as Jews. Moreover, this approach requires strengthening the Torah-based Judeo-Christian spiritual unity and joint work on making the world a better place for everybody. That is a Judaism’s pillar which is based on Intellect given to us by God precisely for this purpose.

Another way is based on the belief that God the Creator created everything as practically unchangeable. If it is so, an unchangeable God’s guidance for human behavior can be developed, and people can be judged by obedience to this guidance with no flexibility for individual deviation from the guidance allowed. And a sizable segment of the Jewish people created such guidance called Halakha. The Halakha guidance may be slowly changing but unwillingly, with great resistance. Here the meaning of creative work is transformed from the creating the new things to strengthening or restoring everything what have been in existence. Two traits are characteristic for this way of thinking: only rabbis have the right to declare what is right and what is wrong (all others are denied this right), and only spiritual segregation from the non-Jewish world can preserve the faith. Here the people are judged by obedience to rituals and guidance created by other people who are considered to be “religious authority”. That is a Judaism’s pillar which is based on Halakha.

And finally, one more way is based on the idea that if God made everybody in His image, the Gentiles are among those made in His image. If it is so it is wise not to distinguish yourself from the Gentiles. This approach leads to integration with a greater Gentile society and even to assimilation. To avoid the impression of converting to Christianity, here the Jews are judged by obedience to a secular ideology dominated in a Gentile society. That is a Judaism’s pillar which is based on Integration.

Yes, diversity indeed is one of most important traits of Jewish identity – in accordance with the Torah, not against it.

About the Author
Vladimir Minkov graduated from the Naval Engineering Academy in the former Soviet Union, served in the Soviet Navy and there received his Ph.D. At the end of 1970s he immigrated to America where democracy and the Judeo-Christian spirituality of this country made it possible for him to actively defend both his scientific and spiritual ideas. In the USA he has found the place for his scientific public work in the spiritual realm of One God and Torah.