By Benjy Singer

Listening to Rabbi Sacks tonight at the Great Synagogue, if there is one message I think he is trying to pass on, it is to engage and have dialogue with the ‘other’- those from other faiths and beliefs as well as those with none, with confidence and pride…

 

Rabbi Sacks is engaged and understands the world in which we live. It is clear from what he said tonight, that Rabbi Sacks sees the only way to successfully deal with religious tension and intolerance is through open dialogue, communication and understanding.

Tonight, he spoke about fundamentalism, dealing with rising antisemitism and anti-Israel sentiment, the role of women, the Palestinian question, how we relate to other faiths and religions etc. The way he analysed and dealt with these issues had a common thread – that we need to approach reaching a solution with humility, understanding and the willingness to see the perspective of the other side.

He believes religion can potentially bring peace and prosperity to the world if those who teach and practice it have the right balance and a responsible approach. Co-existence is possible if there is genuine respect for others.

This is rooted in his belief that there are different paths to the truth and G-d Himself has created this diversity and complexity – both in heaven and down here on earth. As Rabbi Sacks said, ‘the symphony of faith in heaven, is far more complex and diverse than we think down here on earth’.

The fact we, the Jews were chosen, doesn’t lead to the others being rejected and us treating them as second class citizens. After all, as he often quotes, the Torah reminds us over and over again, we were the minority in Egypt and therefore should know what it feels like.

He then went on to discuss the Holocaust and said that following the Holocaust, the State of Israel ended our sense of powerlessness and gave us a feeling that we were in control of our destiny.

So, what’s his message?

We need to learn how to make space for others, even if they are not like us and we may not get on so well. We need to try to find common ground.

As Rabbi Sacks said, ‘If you want to be free, you must let go of hate’. Each of us has a particular gift and quality that no-one else has, and we all have something that other people need. We need to feel a sense of responsibility to our fellow human being, not just our Jewish brethren. It’s only when we feel that sense of mutual respect and dependency that we can move forward and build a better, more peaceful world.

The full article can be found here on IsraelK

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