Amongst the fascinating laws in this week’s Torah is one that is particularly relevant. If a prophet or a dreamer emerges from amongst the Jewish people and performs miracles and uses these to get the Jews to abandon their God, then one is not allowed to listen or to pay any attention to the miracles themselves. This is simply a test to see how loyal we are to God and to the set of commands given to us through Moses. There in Chapter 13 is as clear a message as one could possibly wish for to refute any claims by Christians or “Jews for Jesus” that we can fulfill our spiritual destiny as Jews by rejecting or abandoning our tradition or by accepting a false prophet.
Interestingly, the passage does not say that magic might not work, just that we should not pay any attention. Miracles function to reinforce a prior commitment, not establish a new one. The message is the medium, tricks have their roles but they are secondary. Indeed the whole function and nature of miracles is downgraded by this passage. All our prophets sought to reinforce commitment to the full range of Torah principles–ethical, spiritual, ritual, and civil.
This does not mean that ours is the only religion and the only way that God communicates with humanity. There were other prophets amongst the rest of the world, and prophets from our tradition to the nations. The Torah assumes that other nations and traditions will coexist with ours, from Ishmael onwards. Even before Sinai, Avraham relates positively to Melchizedek of Shalem, a Priest to El Elyon. There are indeed many paths to God, and others may have equally high ethical and spiritual traditions.
But our tradition is our heritage and anyone trying to attack that fundamental cannot possibly have anything of value to say to us or to add to what has already been given.