From the Editor – Rabbi Sacks Edition 5782


Seven years ago, just before the Yamim Noraim, the New Jersey communities of Livingston and West Orange had the honor of hosting Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks zt”l for a lecture on the topic of repentance.

As a rabbinic couple in the community, my wife and I had the privilege of meeting with Rabbi Sacks at a small reception before his lecture. We were awed by his wisdom, humor and humility.

We took our seats in the large auditorium following the reception, eagerly anticipating Rabbi Sacks’ lecture. He did not disappoint, delivering an extraordinary talk on the difference between King David and King Shaul and why David’s repentance was accepted, while Shaul’s was not. There was only one problem: I had also prepared a Yom Kippur sermon about the very same topic, which was now destined for the trash bin!

As you might expect, Rabbi Sacks’ lecture on the subject was infinitely more profound and powerful than my speech, sending me back to the sermon drawing board only a few days before Yom Kippur. All I was left with was a new understanding of the verse in the book of Iyov: The L-rd giveth and the L-rd taketh away!

The most significant and most impactful thinker of our generation, Rabbi Sacks’ passing one year ago left a void that will not easily be filled. Possessed with an uncanny ability to speak persuasively to Jews and gentiles of all backgrounds, Rabbi Sacks was particularly beloved within our own Modern Orthodox and Religious Zionist community as the Gadol B’Yisrael who best exemplified our deepest held beliefs. Though immersed in the philosophical teachings of our tradition, he refused to remain in the ivory tower of academia. He was not only the greatest thinker of our generation but also our Rebbe, guiding us through the murky complexities of modern life.

In his incisive book, The Great Partnership: Science, Religion and the Search for Meaning, Rabbi Sacks argues that global challenges such as economic equality and global warming, though important, are political issues – vast, distant, global and remote. By contrast, moral issues are always personal, requiring each individual to live with wisdom, faith, charity and love.

Rabbi Sacks explains that the political is always secondary to the moral in the Torah’s value scheme.

The book of Bereishit, which is about personal relationships, precedes the book of Shemot, which is about politics, liberation and nation-building. In the same way, Megillat Ruth begins with an intensely moving story of personal loyalty and kindness, only revealing at the very end of the book that Ruth is the great grandmother of King David, the father of Israel’s monarchy.

In Rabbi Sacks’ words, this is the Torah’s “literary way of establishing the primacy of the personal over the political… Politics makes the headlines. It always did…But what the world thinks large the Bible thinks small, and what the world dismisses as of minor account the Bible focuses on and frames with minute attention” (The Great Partnership, p. 165).

At HaMizrachi, much of our writing is appropriately devoted to the greatest miracle of our generation – Am Yisrael’s national rebirth in the Land of Israel. At the same time, Rabbi Sacks reminds us never to lose sight of the remarkable personal stories and moral issues at the heart of our people’s return to our Land. Individual stories of courage and sacrifice, of love and faith, too often ignored by the media, must take center stage within these pages, for these stories are the foundation of our redemption.

In marking the first yahrzeit of Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, we mourn his loss and celebrate his extraordinary achievements. But most of all, we give thanks for the blessing that he brought to our lives and for helping our people stand taller and prouder all over the world. May his teachings continue to inspire our nation for generations to come.


Rabbi Elie Mischel is Editor of HaMizrachi.

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