It’s not often that we encounter a religious leader who can inspire people of all faiths. One such person was Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, former Chief Rabbi of the United Kingdom and a respected scholar worldwide.
Several weeks ago, I was deeply saddened to learn that Rabbi Sacks had passed away at the age of 72 after his third battle with cancer. His death drew reactions from leaders around the world, including the Prince of Wales, who mourned the loss of a leader “whose wisdom, scholarship and humanity were without equal.”
A Beacon of Truth
Rabbi Sacks has been an important influence in my own spiritual journey. I’ve quoted his words throughout my writings, including in my most recent book, Generation to Generation: Passing on a Legacy of Faith to our Children. In a world full of confusion and uncertainty, Rabbi Sacks’ words are a beacon of truth that provide guidance, clarity, and encouragement.
Recently, I listened to an interview with Rabbi Sacks that took place earlier this year. In one poignant segment, the interviewer expressed the feelings of hopelessness among many Americans who worry that, with all of the problems facing the country, America is inevitably on the decline. Rabbi Sacks responded by saying, “Let me teach you the Jewish way of thinking: Forget the word inevitable, it doesn’t exist!”
After a faith-based explanation of why there is always reason to hope, Rabbi Sacks concluded by describing the scene when the British army liberated Bergen-Belsen, a Nazi death camp. The BBC recorded footage of barely living Jewish survivors singing the “Hatikva” (The Hope), the song that would become the national anthem of Israel 3 years later. Rabbi Sacks explained, “At the gates of hell, they sang about hope…We can never ever give up hope or accept anything as inevitable.”
That was Rabbi Sacks. He had a way of cutting straight to the heart of a matter and illuminating the truth with exactly the right words. He spoke passionately about a wide array of topics, always from a biblical perspective incorporated into his vast knowledge of history and philosophy.
Passing on Our Faith
Personally, I have been most inspired by Rabbi Sack’s writings about passing on our values to the next generation, and they greatly influenced the content of Generation to Generation. Rabbi Sacks stressed the importance of passing on our faith, writing, “For four thousand years our people survived because in every generation, Jews made it their highest priority to hand their faith on to their children.” He taught that educating our children is paramount in order to protect our values, saying, “To defend a land, you need an army. But to defend freedom, you need education.”
Moreover, Rabbi Sacks believed that an essential element in education is the “constant conversation between the generations.” He emphasized the importance of grandparents and parents sharing stories, traditions, and ideals with the next generation. He believed in the value of families spending meaningful time together.
As we head into the holiday season, I hope that you will take these ideas with you. No matter what our celebrations look like this year, the holidays are always a time to celebrate our values and pass on our traditions. Perhaps the value that we pass down this year more than any other will be “Hatikvah” – hope and faith – in the face of adversity. We have all been gifted a rich spiritual legacy from those who have come before us, and it is both a privilege and a responsibility to pass it on to the next generation and beyond.
With blessings from the Holy Land,
Tags: Faith Generation to Generation Holidays Rabbi Jonathan Sacks