(blessing recited before studying/reading Torah, from the liturgy)
Do Christians and Muslims believe that God gave the Torah to the Jewish people? If so, do Muslims include this appellation among the 99 names of God? [follow links to read Tziporah's original post & Yasmina's response]
Tziporah, I love your struggle with sacred text, and appreciate your sensitivity both to what could be an alienating and boundary-drawing text and also to what is so clearly for you a cherished and essential part of your theology and liturgical practice as a Jew. These simultaneously “comforting and uncomfortable” texts, as we have seen, appear in all our faith traditions. The mischievous part of me wants to respond to the question of whether I believe the Jewish people are God’s chosen “from all peoples” to receive Torah/God’s Truth with “Oh, my goodness, no! We Christians are!”
In serious response, however, I do think devout adherents to each of our faiths inevitably have to wrestle with the question of “Can I be thoroughly, purely Jewish/Christian/Muslim and still recognize and affirm the legitimacy of the other?” When this text is understood in the light of God’s goodness, grace and generosity, without the overlay of an assumption that God is partial to a select cultural or religious group, I can affirm the “yes” to your question, Tziporah, and also affirm, without uneasiness, your recitation of this blessing in your liturgy. At the same time, I am grateful that you can do so without extrapolating from this text that I, as a Christian or Yasmina, a Muslim, must somehow then reside outside of and apart from God’s “chosen.” Indeed, I believe that I am chosen—and that, in fact, God chooses each and all of us to know “how wide and long and high and deep…is the [knowledge-transcending] love of God.” (Ephesians 3:18-19) It delights me that we can each view our “specialness” in the wide embrace of a God who sees all of us as beloved children to whom God seeks to impart every good gift.
Grace's response marks our final "new post" before summer hiatus. We will re-post some of our earlier conversations throughout the summer, and we hope that you will share your thoughts and comments. If you have a reflection on a sacred text that you would like to submit, send it in the body of your email to email@example.com.