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These and these are the words of the living God

These and these are the words of the living God

trifaithlogolowres.jpg"These and these are the words of the living God."

These words from the Babylonian Talmud, spoken by God to end an argument between Hillel and Shammai, show that two different, non-converging opinions can both reflect righteousness, holiness, and insight. Both can be the words of the living God.

When I think of Temple Israel's participation in the Tri-Faith Initiative, I think of the sentiment behind these words.

Temple Israel, The Episcopal Diocese of Nebraska, and the American Institute of Islamic Studies and Culture formed this partnership. Academic learning is one thing, but only through personal relationships do we gain understanding and trust.

One goal of theTri-Faith Initiative has been to co-locate our three places of worship on the same development. This dream is close to becoming a reality. Each religious tradition will have full ritual, educational and financial control of their individual building. The intentional "neighborhood," however, will force dialogue and communication.

Many of us are asked to speak about Tri-faith to groups of people, and invariably, the question of the Middle East comes up. This is a sensitive and delicate issue for members in all three faith traditions. That being said, we have been absolutely clear with each other and with others; we are not trying find solutions. We are trying to talk to each other, and understand.

These three Abrahamic faiths all speak of peace, tolerance, understanding. For all of us, there is holiness in caring about each other, for breaking bread with each other, and for learning about each other. That is our goal.

I've never thought that interfaith dialogue should be about agreement. Too often, we gather with others to talk about the (many) commonalities that we have.

This is different. Our three groups want to delve into the specific particularities that make each of our traditions into a rich,vibrant, living religion. Many of us believe that the understanding of other religions will only deepen the love and understanding we have of our own.

I remember my first visit to Israel, in 1999, studying at Hebrew Union College. It was then that I understood why I am a Reform Jew, specifically because I was surrounded by many who were not Reform Jews.

My Jewish identity has been affected by learning from others. Abraham heard the call of Lech-L'cha, leaving his home, so that he could find his home. This is no different.

I am proud to be part of a synagogue community that is able to look outside of its own windows, to see the beauty that others' see. And to hear other words that reflect the living God.

Rabbi Eric Linder has been a rabbi at Temple Israel in Omaha, NE, since 2006.

Published: 8/12/2011

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