Sir Jonathan Sacks (8 March 1948 – 7 November 2020) was a British Orthodox rabbi, philosopher, theologian, author and politician who served as the Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth from 1991 to 2013.
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The Dignity of Difference
- One of the most important distinctions I have learned in the course of reflection on Jewish history is the difference between optimism and hope. Optimism is the belief that things will get better. Hope is the faith that, together, we can make things better. Optimism is a passive virtue, hope an active one. It takes no courage to be an optimist, but it takes a great deal of courage to have hope. Knowing what we do of our past, no Jew can be an optimist. But Jews have never – despite a history of sometimes awesome suffering – given up hope. Not by accident did they call the national anthem of their new state Hatikvah, meaning, the hope.”
- Chapter 11, p. 177
- We have no idea where the world is going, except that it's going there very fast.
- Speech to Kenan Ethics department, 2009.
From Optimism to Hope (2004)
- If we are to cherish freedom, and to guard it, we must remember what the alternative is: the bread of affliction and the bitter herbs of slavery.
- p. 42
- Marriage, sanctified by the bond of fidelity, is the nearest life gets to a work of art.
- p. 69
- The twenty-first century is, and will remain, the Age of Insecurity.
- p. 71
The Authorised Daily Prayer Book (4th ed 2006)
- The first of the "request" prayers in the daily Amidah is a fractal. It replicates in miniature the structure of the Amidah as a whole.
- p. XVII
- The meaning of the word "true" here is similar to the word Amen said after a blessing. It is an act of affirmation and ratification, reminding us that the Shema is less a prayer than a declaration of faith.
- pp. 386-7
- Faith is not a certainty. Faith is the courage to live with uncertainty.
- Judaism is the refusal to give way to despair.
- In Judaism faith means wrestling with God as Jacob once wrestled with an angel...
House of Lords
- My Lords, I and the vast majority of the Jewish community, care deeply about the future of the Palestinians. We want Palestinian children, no less than Israeli children, to have a future of peace, prosperity, freedom and hope. Which is why we oppose those who teach Palestinian children to hate those with whom they will one day have to live; who take money given for humanitarian aid and use it to buy weapons and dig tunnels to take the region back to a dark age of barbarism.
More generally we say in the name of the God of Abraham, the Almighty, merciful and compassionate God, that the religion in whose name atrocities are being carried out, innocent people butchered and beheaded, children treated as slaves, civilians turned into human shields, and young people into weapons of self-destruction, is not the Islam that once earned the admiration of the world, nor is its God the God of Abraham. It was Nietzsche not the prophets who worshipped the will to power. It was Machiavelli not sacred scripture who taught that it is better to be feared than to be loved.
Every religion must wrestle with its dark angels, and so today must we: Jews, Christians and Muslims alike. For we are all children of Abraham and it will only be when we make space for one another as brothers and sisters that we will redeem the world from darkness and walk together in the light of God.
- "Every religion must wrestle with its dark angels, and so today must we: Jews, Christians and Muslims alike", House of Lords (30 October 2014), as reproduced on Rabbi Sacks website.
- [T]oday there is hardly a country in the world, certainly not a single country in Europe, where Jews feel safe.
A society, or for that matter, a political party, that tolerates antisemitism, that tolerates any hate, has forfeited all moral credibility.
- From a House of Lords debate on antisemitism, as cited in "Tonge blames Israel for Jew-hate... during debate on antisemitism", The Jewish Chronicle (20 June 2019)
- See Antisemitism in the UK Labour Party. The article title refers to Jenny Tonge, Baroness Tonge, the former MP and ex-Liberal Democrat.