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Follow the audio shiurim, lectures and speeches of Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, global religious leader, philosopher, author of over 30 books and moral voice for our time. Rabbi Sacks served as Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth between September 1991 and September 2013. A full biography - together with an extensive online archive of Rabbi Sacks' work - is available at www.rabbisacks.org or you can follow him on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @rabbisacks.

The Office of Rabbi Sacks Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks

    • Judaïsme
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Follow the audio shiurim, lectures and speeches of Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, global religious leader, philosopher, author of over 30 books and moral voice for our time. Rabbi Sacks served as Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth between September 1991 and September 2013. A full biography - together with an extensive online archive of Rabbi Sacks' work - is available at www.rabbisacks.org or you can follow him on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @rabbisacks.

    The Blessing of Love (Naso, Covenant & Conversation 5780)

    The Blessing of Love (Naso, Covenant & Conversation 5780)

    Here is the audio recording of Rabbi Sacks' Covenant & Conversation commentary essay on this week's Torah portion of Naso 5780.

    You can download a PDF of this commentary, as well as an accompanying Family Edition, from rabbisacks.org/naso-5780/

    Covenant & Conversation is kindly sponsored by the Maurice Wohl Charitable Foundation.

    • 10 min.
    Lifting others, we ourselves are lifted (Thought for the Day)

    Lifting others, we ourselves are lifted (Thought for the Day)

    Here is a transcript of the 'Thought for the Day' broadcast on BBC Radio 4 earlier today.

    This is Mental Health Awareness Week, and its theme this year is kindness. Next week is the Jewish festival of Shavuot, Pentecost, when we read the biblical book of Ruth, whose theme is kindness. These two things coming together during this time of isolation made me see the book with new eyes and realise what a contemporary text it is though it tells of events more than 3000 years ago.

    It begins with a couple and their two sons forced to leave home because of famine. They go to a foreign country where their two sons marry local women. Then tragedy strikes. All three men die. The woman, whose name is Naomi, is left a childless widow, the most vulnerable of all positions in the ancient world because there was no one to look after you.

    She goes back home but is so changed that her former neighbours hardly recognise her. Can this be Naomi? They ask. Don’t call me Naomi, she replies – the word means pleasant. Call me Mara, bitter.

    That is how the book begins: with bereavement, isolation and depression. Yet it ends in joy. Naomi now has a grandson. Her daughter-in-law Ruth and relative Boaz have married and had a child. This is no mere child. In the last line of the book, we discover that he is the grandfather of David, Israel’s greatest king and author of much of the book of Psalms.

    What transforms Naomi’s life from bitterness to happiness is described by the Hebrew word chessed. When, in the early 1530s, William Tyndale was translating the Bible into English for the first time, he realised that there was no English equivalent for chessed, so he invented one, the word lovingkindness. Two people’s lovingkindness, Ruth and Boaz, rescued Naomi from depression and gave her back her joy. That is the power of chessed, love as deed.

    One of the enduring memories of the coronavirus period will be the extraordinary acts of kindness it evoked, from friends, neighbours, and strangers, those who helped us, kept in touch with us, or simply smiled at us. When fate was cruel to us, we were kind to one another. Human goodness emerged when we needed it most. And Mental Health Awareness Week reminds us that some need it more than most.

    Kindness redeems fate from tragedy and the wonderful thing is that it doesn’t matter whether we are the giver or the recipient. Lifting others, we ourselves are lifted.

    • 2 min.
    Egalitarian Society, Jewish-Style (Bamidbar 5780)

    Egalitarian Society, Jewish-Style (Bamidbar 5780)

    Here is the audio recording of Rabbi Sacks' Covenant & Conversation commentary essay on this week's Torah portion of Bamidbar 5780.

    You can download a PDF of this commentary, as well as an accompanying Family Edition, from rabbisacks.org/bamidbar-5780/

    Covenant & Conversation is kindly sponsored by the Maurice Wohl Charitable Foundation.

    • 11 min.
    We’ve been through too much simply to go back to where we were (Thought for the Day)

    We’ve been through too much simply to go back to where we were (Thought for the Day)

    Here is a recording of Rabbi Sacks' 'Thought for the Day' broadcast on BBC Radio 4's Today programme on 15th May 2020. You can read a transcript below.

    When the worst of the pandemic is over, what kind of future will we seek? Will we try as far as possible to go back to the way things were? Or will we try to create a more just and caring society? What impact does collective tragedy have on the human imagination?

    The philosopher Hegel said that the one thing we learn from history is that we learn nothing from history. But the great prophets of the Bible who experienced tragedy, like Isaiah and Jeremiah, said in effect, we must learn from history if we are to avoid repeating it. We have to use the pain we’ve been through to sensitise ourselves to the pain of others, the poor, the weak and the vulnerable – the widow, the orphan and the stranger. Collective suffering can move us from I to We, from the pursuit of self-interest to care for the common good. Which will it be for us?

    It’s worth looking at the last two great tragedies in Western history, World War I and the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918, and World War II. After 1918, nothing much changed. It was an age of individualism and inequality, of the Roaring Twenties and the great Gatsby, wild dances and even wilder parties, as if people were trying to forget and put the past behind them.

    It was fun, but it led to the great strike of 1926 and the great crash of 1929, the recession of the 1930s and the rise in mainland Europe of nationalism and fascism. And a mere 21 years after the war to end all wars, the world was at war again. On that occasion, Hegel was right. People learned nothing from history.

    The reaction to World War II was quite different. There was the 1944 education act that extended secondary education to everyone. There was the National Health Service and the birth of the welfare state. America produced the Marshall plan that helped a ravaged Europe to rebuild itself. The result was 75 years of peace. People knew they had to build something more inclusive. When war or disease affects all of us, you learn to care for all of us.

    I hope that’s what happens now, that we build a fairer society, where human values count as much as economic ones. We’ve been through too much simply to go back to where we were. We have to rescue some blessing from the curse, some hope from the pain.

    • 2 min.
    The Power of a Curse (Behar-Bechukotai 5780)

    The Power of a Curse (Behar-Bechukotai 5780)

    Here is the audio recording of Rabbi Sacks' Covenant & Conversation commentary essay on this week's Torah portion of Behar-Bechukotai 5780.

    You can download a PDF of this commentary, as well as an accompanying Family Edition, from rabbisacks.org/behar-bechukotai-5780/

    Covenant & Conversation is kindly sponsored by the Maurice Wohl Charitable Foundation.

    • 9 min.
    Radical Uncertainty (Emor 5780)

    Radical Uncertainty (Emor 5780)

    Here is the audio recording of Rabbi Sacks' Covenant & Conversation commentary essay on this week's Torah portion of Emor 5780.

    You can download a PDF of this commentary, as well as an accompanying Family Edition, from rabbisacks.org/emor-5780/

    Covenant & Conversation is kindly sponsored by the Maurice Wohl Charitable Foundation.

    • 10 min.

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