Nevertheless, those who believe that God guides human history should have the intellectual honesty and moral courage to acknowledge the role of Christianity and Islam in the spiritual growth of humankind.
Anyone familiar with the New Testament or the Koran knows that there are many statements in these texts that are agreeable to Jewish readers. Yet what earns Jewish respect and admiration for the New Testament is different from what earns Jewish respect and admiration for the Koran.
In the New Testament, Jews can identify with the ethical message of Jesus, whose moral statements parallel those attributed to Talmudic sages. In the Koran, Jews identify best with the pure and rigorous monotheism preached by Mohammad.
Islamic monotheism is stated so categorically in the Koran that for centuries Jews felt closer to Islam than to Christianity. It took the murderous attacks of Islamists during the late 20th and early 21st century to make many Jews think that Christianity and not Islam is the faith closest to Judaism.
In fact, both Islam and Christianity are close to Judaism. Islam is close to Judaism theologically and Christianity is close to Judaism ethically. Islam’s strict monotheism renders the Islamic faith cogent for 1.5 billion Muslims, while Christian ethics contribute to the peace and rule of law prevalent in Western societies.
In other words, the Torah-inspired element in each of these faiths is the source of each religion’s strength. If we agree upon this, we can see that if Islamic societies embraced Judeo-Christian ethics they would be spared the bloodshed and backwardness brought forth by private justice and jihad, whereas if Western societies embraced Judeo-Islamic monotheism they would rediscover the strength and beauty of spirituality.
It is thus plausible to surmise that God brought Christianity and Islam forth to teach the world that both the theological and ethical pillars of the Torah are essential to build societies that are spiritual and just.
However, in addition to acknowledging the Jewish contribution to Christianity and Islam, it is important to acknowledge the contribution of Christianity and Islam to Judaism.
Christian societies, when they were not overtly hostile and thus made Jewish minorities impermeable to the surrounding environment, imbued Jews with the sense that the spirit of Jewish Law is no less important than the letter of this law. This realization paved the way for the tremendous Jewish contribution to social, political and intellectual movements in Western societies.
Islam on the other hand, reminded Jews that monotheism is not the patrimony of one nation, but rather that every human race is able to embrace faith in one God. It is this familiarity with Islamic universalism that may have contributed to a greater openness of Sephardic Jews towards brethren of unfamiliar skin hues. Thus, whilst European-born rabbis looked the other way, the Sephardic rabbinate embraced Ethiopian Jewry.
The interaction of the three great Western religions paves the way for each faith to be purified and to bring humanity closer to ethical monotheism. This ethical monotheism constitutes the hallmark of the spiritual adulthood of humankind and will bring peace and justice to the world.