Counting Towards Shavuot

Daily Questions & Answers

April 14, 2023
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"So when we start bringing the omer, we know we’re on our way to freedom."

– Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks zt"l

On Thursday evening, 6th April 2023, we will begin Counting the Omer. For 49 consecutive days, we strive to follow the daily count, as we make the mark our seven-week journey from Pesach to Shavuot. To enhance this journey, we will be sharing thought-provoking questions that were addressed by Rabbi Sacks in his lifetime. We hope that you will consider the questions, and we'll show you where across this site you can find Rabbi Sacks answers!

The Omer period, a time of introspection and growth, begins on the second night of Pesach, which is the festival when questions are particularly encouraged. We hope these daily posts will provide a meaningful and engaging way for people to connect with the wisdom of Rabbi Sacks through questions and answers, as we embark upon the march towards Shavuot.


Daily Questions & Answers

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What gave Jewish identity its extraordinary tenacity?

When discussing Pesach in an article he wrote for The Times in 2006, Rabbi Sacks addressed the survival and strength of Judaism, and the power of the festival of freedom...

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How can we internalise the message that ‘To be free, we must let go of hate’?

Easier said than done? How does Rabbi Sacks advise us to free ourselves of hate? Head to 13:35 in this StandWithUsvideo, to hear Rabbi Sacks elaborate...

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How Do We Count Time?

Judaism has a distinct way of marking time. Learn more about the Omer Controversy, and what it really means, through engaging in this shiur given in Jerusalem in 2016:

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Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People?

It's one of the questions we grapple with often, when we think of past loss, and whenever tragedy strikes. How can we ever understand why terrible things are allowed to happen to good people?

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What is a Rabbi?

How often do we take our Rabbis for granted without really considering their integral role in Jewish life?

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Who created God?

A young student once asked Rabbi Sacks, "Before Hashem created the world, who created Hashem?"

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Does scientific knowledge contradict religious belief?

What do we do when our understanding through science does not align with our understanding of the world through a religious lens?

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Does is the Jewish recipe for happiness?

In Judaism we have a unique expectation of happiness. Find Rabbi Sacks' succinct explanation of the Jewish path to happiness via this quote card.

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Why does God make it so easy for us to sin?

Taken from the Ask Rabbi Sacks series, this question is asked by a student at 3:38 and Rabbi Sacks gives his answer at 4:11 in the video.

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What does the term 'Chosen People' mean?

This answer comes from the series of short videos recorded by Rabbi Sacks in 2013, addressing some of the burning questions of Jewish faith.

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How has the Holocaust impacted your personal relationship with God?

This question was selected for the 11th day of the Omer because it coincides with Yom HaShoah. To find the answer, watch the video from the Holocaust series Rabbi Sacks made in April 2020.

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Where can you find hope in the history of the Holocaust?

Watch the final video from the Holocaust series Rabbi Sacks made in April 2020, a crucial question that he wished to address for all who struggle with the enormous tragedy of the Shoah.

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Is the capacity for forgiveness intrinsic to human nature?

A question posed by the Templeton Foundation as part of their Big Questions series, and very appropriate after we marked the Jewish Holocaust Memorial Day this week.

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What is the purpose of life?

Perhaps one of the most important and introspective questions we each must examine, Rabbi Sacks gives a response that is both inspiring and a testament to the way he lived his own life.

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If you could ask God one question, what would it be?

Rabbi Sacks shares the question he reflects on, and asks of God daily.

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How can we concentrate better on our prayers?

This question was sent to Rabbi Sacks by a young Australian student (see 1:23 in the video) and he shares his advice from 1:43.

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Is interfaith dialogue underrated or overrated?

At Yeshiva University’s ‘World of Tomorrow’ Conference, Rabbi Ari Lamm asked this question of Rabbi Sacks.

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Why don't all the Jews in the world live in Israel?

This question was sent to Rabbi Sacks by a young Israeli (see 3:44 in the video) and you can head to 3:57 in the video for Rabbi Sacks' response.

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What lessons can we learn from Israel about resilience?

As we commemorate Yom HaZikaron, it's worth revisiting Rabbi Sacks' thoughts on Israel's tenacious resilience. Head to 23:23 in this StandWithUs video for the question and answer.

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Why do you call Israel the "home of hope"?

And as we move from Yom HaZikaron to Yom Ha'atzmaut, here is Rabbi Sacks' explanation of his description of Israel. Go to 19:33 in this StandWithUs video for the question from Michael Dickson and answer from Rabbi Sacks.

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What is Jewish leadership all about?

A frequently asked question, Rabbi Sacks discusses leadership, and Jewish leadership.

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What is faith?

A question often posed and difficult to answer, Rabbi Sacks explores this topic as part of his lecture series, the Faith Lectures.

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What is local community nowadays?

With so much online these days, Rabbi Sacks explains the meaning of community today...

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How do you know there is a God?

A four minute explanation by Rabbi Sacks of the existence of God through creation, revelation and redemption.

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How can Jews navigate both the universal and the national nature of their identities?

At the YU Conference of Tomorrow in 2017, Rabbi Ari Lamm asked Rabbi Sacks this pressing question of our times.

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How can the Torah be trusted?

A frequently asked question, Rabbi Sacks addresses how the Torah's teachings remain as powerful, as relevant, and as universally forceful today, as they did when the Torah was first given.

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Are we at the end or the beginning of God's creative process?

This was one of the Big Questions asked of Rabbi Sacks by the Templeton Foundation.

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Would the world be better without any religion?

Is religion the source of violence in the world? Would the world be better off following the John Lennon school of philosophy, from his song, Imagine?

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How can I be committed to my religion and open to others?

One of the Big Questions asked of Rabbi Sacks by the Templeton Foundation, on the themes of respect, diversity, and the Dignity of Difference.

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How do you bring heaven down to earth

See from 4:25 of Dr. Miroslav Volf's interview Rabbi Sacks during a visit to Yale University. They focused on the vision of the good life in the Jewish tradition, as part of the ‘Life Worth Living’ course.

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Can we teach youth to take up duty to humanity?

Rabbi Sacks explores the energy and importance of our youngest generation.

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What's the difference between antisemitism and anti-Zionism

A question asked by a college student, Rabbi Sacks begins his explanation at 8:56 in this video.

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What was the Omer?

Rabbi Sacks goes all the way back through Jewish history to discuss Lag B'Omer and a deeper understanding of the Omer in this shiur.

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Is Modern Orthodoxy underrated or overrated?

Rabbi Sacks shares his views on Modern Orthodoxy, and how he understands this label.

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How do we reconcile the parts of the Torah that are different from where we are today?

A key question regarding the timelessness and timeliness of the Torah (go to 17:28).

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What do Jews believe about the afterlife?

Watch Rabbi Sacks explain how Judaism sees the afterlife as the place where souls, after the body reaches the end of its biological existence, are reunited with God.

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What educational opportunities are there in the 21st century?

An important question for students and educators today.

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Can the power of love replace the love of power?

Rabbi Sacks delves into this key question of whether love can overcome the desire for power.

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How do our prayers express the principles of Jewish faith?

Rabbi Sacks explores the tefillot we say each day in this quotable quote.

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How can those without faith understand faith?

Can religious faith ever be understood by those without faith? Is there an equivalent? Could this answer help religious people and atheist people communicate?

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Why was Maimonides considered a controversial figure?

Rabbi Sacks explores the the legacy of Rambam (Moshe Maimonides) and the reactions to his teachings over the generations.

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Why do we mark a yahrzeit by the day a person died?

Rabbi Sacks explains the reason for the yahrzeit, and why it is not marked by celebrating the person's birthday after they have passed away.

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What does Jerusalem mean to you?

Exploring the meaning of the spiritual home of the Jewish people as a love story. We shared this question as we marked Yom Yerushalayim this year.

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How could Jews believe so much in a city they had been exiled from for so long?

Rabbi Sacks discusses the faith of a people who have spent more time outside of their homeland and home city than within it.

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Does all the evil in the world show there is no God?

Rabbi Sacks answers the question of how God can allow terrible people and terrible evil in His world.

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Why does God love diversity?

Another of Templeton's Big Questions from the video series, Rabbi Sacks explores the value of a diverse planet.

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How would you like people to remember your tenure as Chief Rabbi.

Keep learning with me. I don’t want you to remember, I want you to keep learning. I will keep putting out the material, I will keep writing the Covenant & Conversation pieces, I will keep doing the books. Let’s learn together.

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How do we transcend our differences and our divisions?

Part of the Ask Rabbi Sacks video series, find the answer at 16:15 in this final video response.

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What happens if we don't keep the covenant?

In a shiur for Shavuot, Rabbi Sacks addresses the question, what happens if we don't hold up our end of the bargain we made with God at Har Sinai?