Time and again, the Torah commands us to love the stranger, the embodiment of otherness:
Do not oppress a stranger; you yourselves know what it feels like to be a stranger, for you were strangers in Egypt. (Exod 23:9
) When a stranger lives with you in your land, do not mistreat him. The stranger living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love her as yourself, for you were strangers in Egypt. I am the Lord your God. (Lev. 19:33-4)
Judaism is a faith that did not take as its mission the conversion of the world. It calls on us to love others for their own sake, in the integrity of their otherness. Judaism teaches that God grants a place in heaven to those whose religion is not the same as ours. God asks us to be true to our faith while being a blessing to others regardless of their faith. God tells us never to forget what it feels like to be a slave, to be poor, to be homeless, to eat the bread of affliction. The greatest of his commands, the simplest yet the hardest, is this: Love the stranger. In an age of clashing civilizations, that is a vital insight.
Until we make theological space for the other, people will continue to hate in the name of the God of love, practice cruelty in the name of the God of compassion, wage war in the name of the God of peace, and murder in the name of the God of life. That is the greatest theological challenge of the twenty-first century. [Edited for gender neutrality]