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Sunday, August 15, 2010

A Soft Traditionalist Rabbi on Christianity and Islam

A new article on Rabbi Yéhouda Léon Askénazi (“Manitou,” 1922-96), almost the only significant Jewish figure to have taken a deep interest in Traditionalism (this is my first even blog post to use the index "Judaism").

Born in Algeria, Manitou was deeply read in French thought, as well as in Orthodox Judaism and the kabbalah. He agreed with Guénon that what mattered was the original philosophia perennis, in esoteric as well as exoteric form, but disagreed with Guénon about what this was. For Manitou, the original revelation was, simply, Judaism–and the esoterism that mattered was the kabbalah.

In “From Monologues to Possible Dialogue: Judaism’s Attitude towards Christianity According to the Philosophy of R. Yéhouda Léon Askénazi (Manitou)” (In Interaction Between Judaism and Christianity in History, Religion, Art, and Literature, Marcel Poorthuis, Joshua Schwartz, and Joseph Turner, eds., Leiden: Brill, 2009, pp. 319-336), Yossef Charvit examines Manitou’s views on Christianity and Islam, the background to a participation in inter-faith dialogue which included writing a special prayer for the opening of what Charvit calls the “Temple de l’Universel,” presumably the Sanctuaire de l’Universel, a Parisian multi-faith venture of the very un-Traditionalist Sufi Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan.

Christianity, Manitou thought, “purported to be the New Israel,” (p. 332) and in beginning to abandon this claim by recognizing that Israel was actually Israel, was approaching the day when all humanity might realize its “Abrahamic features.” Islam, in contrast, had never claimed to be the New Israel. When it came to Christianity, “Our theologies are highly polarized, but there are points of interface regarding ethics.” However, “The opposite is true of Islam, with which we possess theological interfaces but stand in diametric opposition regarding ethics” (p. 325). Unfortunately, Yossef Charvit does not examine Manitou’s views on Islam in much detail in this article; perhaps he will do so in another.

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