The Way of Kiddush Hashem: The Jewish Task
It can be argued that this ninth unit is the most critical in understanding the thought of Rabbi Sacks, as it explores his concept of Kiddush Hashem, the Jewish national mission and the most central and critical idea in his philosophy of Judaism. For Rabbi Sacks, the Jewish people have been commissioned by God to be His ambassadors on earth, spreading the core values of Judaism. We are to do that by creating a model society, and by being a role model nation, embodying the values that are inherent and central to Judaism.
The way of Judaism is particular but the concern of Judaism is universal. Abraham was promised that ‘Through you all the families of the earth will be blessed.’ Isaiah said that we are called on to be God’s ‘witnesses’. Our message is not for ourselves alone.
How so? We do not seek to convert others. We believe that the righteous of all nations have a share in the world to come. But we do seek to be living examples, reflections of God’s light, an inspiration to others to find their own way to God. That, we believe, is the only way of honouring the fact, after Babel, of a world of many cultures and civilizations. God is one; we are many; and we must learn to live together in peace. That is why we do not seek to impose our faith on others. Truth is communicated by influence not power, by example not by force or fear.
Others have understood this about us. Winston Churchill, for example, said that the West owes to the Jews ‘a system of ethics which, even were it entirely separated from the supernatural, would be incomparably the most precious possession of mankind, worth in fact the fruits of all other learning and wisdom put together’.
At a time when we have witnessed the resurgence of antisemitism, the world’s oldest hatred, it is important to know that, yes, we have enemies but we also have friends. We have critics, but there are those who, without seeking to become Jewish, have drawn inspiration from Jewish life. We owe it to them, not just to ourselves, to be faithful to our task: to be God’s ambassadors on earth.
The educational aims for this unit are for students to:
- understand the term Kiddush Hashem and what it means in a practical way.
- understand the concept of universalism and particularism, and the role of these ideas in the thought of Rabbi Sacks.
- understand what the Jewish National Mission is according to Rabbi Sacks.
- consider what it means to be an ambassador for God through modelling behaviour.
- explore the core message of Judaism, in order to be living examples.
- explore quotes from non-Jewish thinkers and authors paying testament to the role and impact of the Jews on history.