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August 30, 2014 / 4 Elul, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Lord Sacks’

Rabbi Sacks is All that Is Right with Judaism

Wednesday, June 26th, 2013

Miriam Shaviv has penned one of the most important articles in recent memory. It highlights what we will truly be missing when the current Chief Rabbi of the United Kingdom officially enters retirement in September.

This may sound a bit fawning or overblown. But I don’t think it is. Rabbi Sacks is all that is right with Judaism. He is a brilliant thinker who has written numerous books on Jewish thought. Largely through his efforts Jewish education for the masses has increased to record numbers in his country.

Those items alone makes his retirement regrettable. But in perhaps one of his most important functions as a Chief Rabbi – he has done the ultimate Kiddush HaShem.  He has made Judaism among British leadership something to look up to. Something to respect and admire. A religion that more than any other has taught lessons about ethics and leadership to world leaders. In short he has done a lot to spread the light of Torah.

His final farewell dinner was attended by not only British government leadership, both past and present, it was attended by British royalty. From the Times of Israel  article:

The guest of honor was Charles, the Prince of Wales, who in a deliberate misquote of the prophet Isaiah, called Lord Sacks “a light unto this nation.”

…Prince Charles admired Lord Sacks’s “lightness of touch and elegant wit,” and said that he had personally benefited from his advice.

 “Your guidance on any given issue has never failed to be of practical value and deeply grounded in the kind of wisdom that is increasingly hard to come by,” he said.

The heir to the British throne actually read his books to much acclaim. The effusive praise did not stop there:

In a video message, former prime minister John Major said, “As a student of your books over many years you have absorbed more hours of my time than I can possibly remember,” while Labour’s former prime minister Gordon Brown, with whom Sacks was reputed to have had a particularly close relationship, praised his book “Politics of Hope” for suggesting a way “between markets and state… He saw that the ethics of markets were an issue long before the financial crisis.”

Prime Minister David Cameron said that “The Home We Build Together” “had a significant influence on my own mission to build a bigger and stronger society right here in Britain,” which was a cornerstone of his platform in the early years of his premiership.

Lord Sacks had an excellent relationship with clergy of other faiths as well, particularly with the Chief cleric of England, the Archbishop of Canterbury.

It is also rather well known that former prime minister Margaret Thatcher thought so well of Lord Sacks’ wisdom that she turned more often to him for advice than she did to clergy of her own religion.

It is also a tribute to Lord Sacks that clergy of other Jewish denominations attended this event too:

In a rare display of solidarity amongst Britain’s Jewish religious leaders, there were representatives from all the denominations, including Reform’s Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner and the Liberal movement’s Rabbi Danny Rich.

The only ones apparently not in attendance were England’s Charedi establishment rabbis.

The well deserved accolades from the distinguished speakers were far too many to quote here. But aside the huge Kiddush HaShem that Lord Sacks has made during his 22 year tenure, another important issue was addressed that evening. It was on the subject of the shrinking moderate center at the expense of the growth of Ultra- Orthodoxy. He considers this phenomenon ‘worse than dangerous’:

Lord Sacks drew an equivalence between assimilated Jews “who embrace the world and reject Judaism, and those who embrace Judaism and reject the world.”

“It is an abdication of the role of Jews and Judaism in the world. We are here to engage with the world, to be true to our faith and a blessing to others regardless of their faith.”

It is important to point out that Lord Sacks does not reject the philosophy of Charedim. I’m sure he supports their right to interpret  ‘Talmud Torah K’Neged Kulom’ as learning Torah full time and leading as holy a life as possible. What he rejects is their isolationist approach to the world. This is something we should all reject.

Britain’s Rabbi Sacks Says Thatcher as More like Moses than Aaron

Thursday, April 18th, 2013

British Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks paid tribute to Margaret Thatcher on the day of her funeral, saying that “in public, her leadership style was more like Moses than Aaron, more conviction and confrontation than compromise and conciliation.

“But we need both. Aaron was more loved than Moses. The sages said that when Aaron died, everyone mourned, but when Moses died, not everyone did. But without Moses, there would not have been a Jewish people. Sometimes leaders have to be strong at the cost of being divisive, because they see no other way of getting from here to there.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attended the funeral of Britain’s first female Prime Minister, Wednesday, along with 10 other serving Prime Ministers from around the world.

Torah and Science – The Controversy Remains

Sunday, October 7th, 2012

It seems that two very prominent rabbinic figures have come on board with Rabbi Slifkin’s views with respect to reconciling science and the Torah. According to a post on Hirhurim by Rabbi Gil Student, Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, the Chief Rabbi of England, and a man of great intellect whom I respect and admire greatly is one of them. The other is Rabbi Yaakov Ariel – one of the chief Poskim of Religious Zionists in Israel. These two people are not just your average rabbis. They are both highly respected not only by me but by Jews all over the world.

I am always glad to see that reasonable approaches to reconciling Torah and science – like those of Rabbi Slifkin – are increasingly being re-accepted by mainstream rabbis of stature. Especially since in the case of Lord Sacks – he had his new book on the subject vetted by the London Beth Din. Which as R’ Gil points out means that we can “deduce that the London Beth Din feels this book does not rise to the level of deserving condemnation.”

But that has not removed the problem created by the ban of these views by the right. They have clearly stated that anything other than a view than that the universe is 5773 years old is Apikursus. And to believe that Chazal only knew and utilized the best science of their era is Apikursus as well.

The only acceptable view on this issue is that anything which is included in the Talmud – whether it is Halacha or science is Emes… if there are current knowledge of science contradicts those views, we either don’t understand Chazal or we do not fully understand the science.

Many people would just say, “Who cares what the right wing says about these things?!”

Sorry, wrong answer.

We cannot ignore the right wing just because we disagree with them. They are far too big and far too important. They are probably the largest segment of Orthodoxy and are certainly the fastest growing. They are clearly the wave of the future – at least in moderate form.

In the world of the right, when a gadol like Rav Elyashiv sets policy, it is considered near blasphemy to contradict or disregard it. Rav Elyashiv famously declared the views espoused by Rabbi Slifkin – and now Lord Sacks and Rav Ariel to be Apikursus. Until the day he died he never backed down form that. (Although interestingly he never declared Rabbi Slifkin himself to be an Apikores since the views he espoused were in fact espoused by Rishonim. One cannot declare someone an Apikores because he believes in the views of Rishonim even if those views are no longer accepted.)

It was Ner Israel Rosh HaYeshiva, Rabbi Aharon Feldman, originally a backer of Rabbi Slifkin’s views who explained why he now rejected them; explaining why we are no longer permitted to believe in those views. In essence he said it is because Rav Elyashiv said so. And we cannot disagree with the Psak of the Gadol HaDor in these matters.

Interestingly he must have been quite incredulous about initial reports about Rav Elyashiv’s rejection of views which up to that point he held to be legitimate. Upon hearing about it, he immediately flew to Israel to find out first hand if it was true. And came back saying that indeed it was.

The right wing view on this subject is therefore are unbreakable. In numerous statements over the years since this controversy began, various members of the Agudah Moetzes and other rabbinic leaders were adamant in support for the views of a man who they saw as the Gadol HaDor. And in the process Rabbi Slifkin was – and still is being hammered by them.

Since that time, many respected rabbis have come out of support of Rabbi Slifkin’s views, Lord Sacks and Rav Areil only being the latest. But unless there is some sort of rethinking on this issue by the right (which I don’t see happening) – this a Pyrrhic victory at best. Nothing has changed. These views will continue to be seen as Apikursus by the largest and fasted growing segment of Orthodox Jewry. That is extremely sad and could lead to an even greater spit in Orthodoxy than we have even now.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/haemtza/torah-and-science-the-controversy-remains/2012/10/07/

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