Levinas and Nostra Aetate

In one of the lesser know pieces by Emmanuel Levinas, he helped prepare in 1965 a three page Jewish version of Nosta Aetate for the French Orthodox rabbinate. The document was never formally issued becuase there was too much dissent.  It has many similarities to Levinas’ own essays where he proposes the idea that all righteous Christians are really to be included in Israel; It is  a concept  of anonymous Jews, similar to Rahner’s Anonymous Christians.

Report of the Commission of experts named by the Chief Rabbi of France and including Mr. Lévinas, Mr. Touati and Mr. Vaida.

Its main headings are the following:

1. The rejection of Christianity could have been avoided

2. The Christians are not idolaters ; they adore the God who created the world and they have a certain number of beliefs in common with the Jews

3. Eternal Salvation for Christians

The term « Israel » in the sentence, « All Israel has a part in the ‘olam ha-ba’ means the righteous from all the nations », unless they impute iniquity to God (‘Aqedat Yitshaq, Shemini, gateway 60).

4. Israel must be inspired by Christians and by Muslims, etc.

5. Christianity and Islam contributed towards the improvement of humanity

6. Christianity and Islam clear the way for the Messiah

After 45 years, it remains a fascinating document.

3 responses to “Levinas and Nostra Aetate

  1. Very interesting , Are you aware of any Cirriculum for students that teaches these ideas ? It would be very relevant for Orthoodxy today and perhaps could help us avoid certain attiudes that result in Chilul Hashem .

  2. The problem may not be the encounter with other faiths but the losing of any sense of diversity or alternatives. Third grade social studies, which goes back to the Margret Mead era of appreciating different cultures, way to each that there are different ways to live. Many of our classrooms have lost the appreciation of the other lifestyles and turn it into “thank God that we are not like them.”

  3. I find the first statement difficult to swallow. I think that it unnecessarily and wrongly minimizes the differences between Christianity and Judaism.

    I also find that it lacks the usability of the Dabru Emet statement. Dabru Emet deals with the Holocaust, social justice, truth in religion. In many ways, this is a very conservative statement.

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