More tributes to Rabbi Lord Sacks

November 9, 2020 by J-Wire
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Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Liberal MP Julian Leeser have added their names to the long list of those who have paid tribute to Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sachs who passed away on Saturday at the age of 72.

Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks at Sydney’s Central Synagogue [2012] Photo: Henry Benjamin/J-Wire

Posting on Facebook, Scott Morrison wrote: “I join with the Jewish community around the world to give thanks for the life and legacy of Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks.

His inspirational teachings and wisdom have long transcended the faith divide and been an important voice for peace, hope and understanding.
He will be greatly missed.”

Julian Leeser wrote: “I join with Prime Minister Scott Morrison (ScoMo), who often quotes him, in paying tribute to the former Chief Rabbi of the Commonwealth Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks.Rabbi Sacks was one of the most profound influences on my life. Although I only met him twice – once at his home in London and then on a visit to Sydney – through his prolific writings (he produced 30 books, each substantial works of scholarship in the last 30 years ) speeches and broadcasts (where he was equally prolific) I benefited enormously from his teaching.

A philosopher by training Rabbi Sacks combined the best thinking from philosophy both classical and modern with Torah and the wisdom of the Jewish sages.

He reminded Jews to “be true to your faith and a blessing to others regardless of their faith” His vision of the role of Judaism in the society is inspiring “Judaism is the counter-voice in the conversation of humankind. As Jews, we do not follow the majority merely because it is the majority. In age after age, century after century, Jews were prepared to do what the poet Robert Frost immortalised [to take the road less travelled].”

Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks in conversation at Sydney’s The Great Synagogue [2012] Photo: Henry Benjamin/J-Wire

Jonathan Sacks wrote not Just for a Jewish audience or a British audience but for thinking people all over the world. Christian leaders were as likely to quote him as Jewish ones. His scholarship and erudition enabled him to put things into words for people of faith in a way that restored their pride at a time when people of faith have been increasingly under attack.There are many Christian writers writing and thinking about leadership in the modern world but Sacks contribution was to provide an authentic Jewish voice to this conversation

I always tell young Jewish leaders to read some Rabbi Sacks for inspiration. Rabbi Sacks believed in a Judaism engaged with the world. His sayings are as important as anything found in our tradition: “Non-Jews respect Jews who respect Judaism and Non-Jews are embarrassed by Jews who are embarrassed by Judaism” is a phrase I have repeated and adapted in other contexts. “A good leader creates followers but a great leader creates leaders” is something that anyone who aspires to lead should remember.

His gift to political philosophy was to focus on the pre-political idea of covenant derived from the Hebrew Bible without which a society cannot function. It was this idea that caused me to seek a meeting with him 13 years ago:

“The two central institutions of modern Western liberal democracies are both contractual. There are commercial contracts that create the market; and there is the social contract that creates the state. The market is about the creation and distribution of wealth. The state is about the creation and distribution of power. But a covenant is about neither wealth nor power, but rather about the bonds of belonging and collective responsibility. As I put it in The Politics of Hope, a social contract creates a state. A social covenant creates a society. A society is the totality of relationships that do not depend on exchanges of wealth and power, namely marriages, families, congregations, communities, charities and voluntary associations. The market and the state are arenas of competition. Society is an arena of co–operation. And we need both.”

I will miss the speeches, the broadcasts, the books and the jokes but fortunately Rabbi Sacks was so prolific and so wise that there are many I am still to hear and read and so many deserve further study and re-reading.

To Lady Sacks and his family; to his friends and students especially Rabbi Jeremy Lawrence (formerly of the Great Synagogue in Sydney who worked with Rabbi Sacks on the Reith Lectures (the UK equivalent of the Boyer lectures in 1991) and to all those who have been inspired by his work, may his memory be a blessing.”

Zionist Federation of Australia President Jeremy Leibler said, “the passing of Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks is an enormous loss to the entire Jewish world. He was a giant of a man whose teachings were full of wisdom, insight and motivation. He inspired a generation of young Jews and demonstrated moral courage in everything he did.”

Leibler continued, “He was also passionate and outspoken about Israel, emphasising the importance and centrality of Israel to the Jewish people, whether in the Jewish State or in the Diaspora. With an enormous sense of pride for the remarkable achievements of the Jewish people, it is hard to imagine that the next chapter of our tribe will be written without Rabbi Sacks as a part of it.

There is no doubt that the teachings and wisdom of his legacy will live on for generations to come”, Leibler concluded. “A mensch in the purest form, the world is a darker place without the compassion and insight of Rabbi Sacks. We send our deepest condolences to his family and loved ones.”

Baruch Dayan Emet.



2 Responses to “More tributes to Rabbi Lord Sacks”
  1. Jeanette Chait says:

    We will all miss such a great person
    Rabbi Sacks came to Wellington New Zealand and was at the dedication of a new Torah that my late father organised though he passed awards before the dedication.
    I will always remember the kind words that Rabbi Sacks spoke to me

  2. Gerald Moses says:

    What a great loss to Humanity.
    Rabbi Sacks Z/L inspired me on so many occasions.
    The world is indeed poorer for his passing but his legacy will I am absolutely sure will be everlasting.
    Boruch Dayan H’emes

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