The Torah may be filled with more anger, hate and murderous ideologies than the New Testament and Quran, but does it not marvel the mind that the one religion based on this specific text displays exponentially less violence in the world than both Islam and Christianity combined?
History tells the painful story of insane hate crimes done in the name of God. Atheistic philosophers will relish in the ‘fact’ that religion is a source of international violence. Yet, what they miss is simply that what causes Islamic Jihad, or other forms of religious violence, is not an expression of what a religion is on an inherent level.
Sacks, as he so often does, offers an exploration into the roots of violence. His biblical analysis demonstrates that religiously inspired terrorism is rooted in a grand misreading of the bible. It is only when one misreads holy text does one conclude that God wants blood and war. His dissection of biblical figures and rivalries highlights the deepest truths we can live with: peace in light of difference. Cain and Abel, Isaac and Ishmael, Jacob and Esav, Joseph and his brothers, Rachel and Leah – these rivalries were solved in a profound way. Yet, this insight is only gained upon deeper examination of the text. And, why should it not be? Should we only allow ourselves to delve deeper into the equations of quantum theory but not in biblical text? Read deeper into the text, for there rests the truth.
Sacks offers a unique view at sibling rivalry in the Torah as a foundation for competition and hate between Abrahamic faiths. Although God might have chosen Isaac, says Sacks, but his brother Ishmael joined him to bury their father Abraham; Jacob might have stolen Isaac’s blessing from Esav, but the aggressive brother is also blessed; Judah tried to kill his brother Joseph, but is forgiven.
As we move forth, we may keep our own identities, but we must acknowledge the existence of the other in the context of being our brother. Ishmael is part of the family. Islam and Judaism are rooted in unity, whether we like it or not. We must recognize The Other, for only then are we fulfilling the essential purpose of the text we are aiming to serve to begin with. Yes, live the paradox.