This short essay examines the place of religious freedom within Judaism. It examines both tolerance towards other religions and tolerance towards deviation from religious principles within the Jewish community. Since there are various views in Judaism, the paper endeavors to describe the attitude of mainstream contemporary Judaism.
Although there were some periods of massive, even forcible, conversion to Judaism in the past, Judaism is essentially a non-missionary religion. While conversion to Judaism is possible, there is an ostensible reluctance to permit even the conversion of individuals, let alone mass conversion.
All mankind was given the seven Noahide commandments, which are comprised of basic moral tenets. At a later stage the Jews were given the Torah on Mt. Sinai, which is binding only upon them. Only at "the end of the days" will the law will go out of Zion to all the peoples. Until then gentiles who follow the Noahide commandments are regarded as the "righteous among the nations". Judaic teachings distinguish, moreover, between idolatry that involves moral corruption and monotheistic faiths, which are highly respected.
Judaism does not recognize freedom of religion for its members. It does sanction, however, freedom within religion. Judaic teachings are replete with diverse opinions, all of them regarded “words of the living God.” Moreover, Judaism lacks a central institute that renders decisions on controversial issues. However, when rules are laid down, in accordance with established guidelines, one is not free to infringe them.
Human Rights Law | Religion Law
Date of this Version
Asher Maoz, "Religious Freedom As A Basic Human Right – The Jewish Perspective" (September 2007). Tel Aviv University Law Faculty Papers. Working Paper 47.