Rabbi Sacks on Fundamentalism
JInsider (March 2010)
What is fundamentalism? There are many different definitions of fundamentalism. Some define it as a literal reading of sacred text. Some define it as a hostile attitude towards modernity. I define fundamentalism as the attempt to impose a single truth on a plural world. And you will find that in common with all fundamentalists. Single truth belongs up there. It doesn’t belong down here.
There’s an extraordinary Midrash that says when God came to create humanity, He consulted with the angels. And the angels disagreed. The Angel of Truth said, “Don’t create man, because he’s full of lies.” But the Angel of Tzedkah said, “Create man, because he does righteous things.” The Angel of Peace said, “Don’t create man, because he’s full of strife.” The Angel of Chessed said, “Do create man, because he does kind things.” So, there it was, two versus two.
What did God do? Says the Midrash, He took truth and threw it to the ground and said, emet me’eretz tismach – “Let truth grow up from the ground.”
What is that Midrash telling us? It’s telling us that if you want peace between human beings, you have to realise that truth in the human sphere grows from the ground up. That concept of one single truth, for that, you have to be God or the angels in heaven. We are down here with the fragments. We see truth, each one of us, from our perspective and all those perspectives combine, but only when you’re up there in heaven.
And that is why we should never insist on truth as it is in heaven, because God only asks us to live by truth as it is on Earth.