One of the most admired religious thinkers of our time issues a call for world Jewry to reject the self-fulfilling image of “a people alone in the world, surrounded by enemies” and to reclaim Judaism’s original sense of purpose: as a partner with God and with those of other faiths in the never-ending struggle for freedom and social justice for all.
We are in danger, says Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, of forgetting what Judaism’s place is within the global project of humankind. During the last two thousand years, Jews have lived through persecutions that would have spelled the end of most nations, but they did not see anti-Semitism written into the fabric of the universe. They knew they existed for a purpose, and it was not for themselves alone. Rabbi Sacks believes that the Jewish people have lost their way, that they need to recommit themselves to the task of creating a just world in which the divine presence can dwell among us.
Without compromising one iota of Jewish faith, Rabbi Sacks declares, Jews must stand alongside their friends–Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, and secular humanist–in defense of freedom against the enemies of freedom, in affirmation of life against those who desecrate life. And they should do this not to win friends or the admiration of others, but because it is what a people of God is supposed to do.
Rabbi Sacks’s powerful message of tikkun olam–of using Judaism as a blueprint for repairing an imperfect world–will resonate with people of all faiths.
British chief rabbi Lord Sacks (Will We Have Jewish Grandchildren?) laments what he sees as a virulent new strain of anti-Semitism plaguing Western Europe as well as serious divisions within the Jewish world that make it difficult to speak of Jews as one people with a shared fate and a collective identity. To combat anti-Semitism, Sacks encourages Jews to work closely with people of other faiths and to recognize that not only Jews face prejudice and hate. He urges his fellow Jews to be both particularist and universalist, to hold fast to their Jewish identity while passionately embracing the modern world and becoming a source of inspiration to others. Sacks believes that criticism of Israel is legitimate but denial of its right to exist is not; he supports a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict, but explains how the Palestinians have thwarted every Israeli move to establish peace. Although controversial, articulate, and well intended, the book is wordy, digressive, and familiar. Blending abundant Hebrew phrases with references to Spinoza, Thomas Paine, and Greek tragedy, Sacks is preaching to an audience of already committed yet worldly Jews who nevertheless may feel inspired by a leader who shares their views. (Apr.)
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