Lady Sacks at the Stonesetting

On Monday 30th August 2021 / 22nd Elul 5781, the stonesetting (matzeiva) of Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks zt”l took place at Bushey New Cemetery, just outside London.

It was officiated by Rabbi Dr Harvey Belovski (Golders Green Synagogue) and eulogies were offered, in order, by Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, Dayan Ivan Binstock (the Dayan of the London Bet Din and Rabbi of St John’s Wood Synagogue) and Lady Sacks.

Here is the final eulogy, offered by Rabbi Sacks’ wife, Lady Elaine Sacks.

Over the last few months so many memories have come flooding in: All our times together, all the achievements, adventures, travels, friendships. We met in Cambridge at the Jewish Society when Rabbi Lew and Rabbi Vogel would come up each week to give a shiur. This was a whole experience to me. It meant a great deal and influenced the way I felt about Yiddishkeit, and helped me in the coming years.

Jonathan and I travelled to many places far-flung and nearer to home, but nothing meant more than precious trips to Israel. About five years ago, we were in Israel for Pesach with our family. During Chol Hamoed on a tiyul, we suddenly heard a chorus of, “We love you, Rabbi Sacks.” A group of Israeli teenagers had recognised him, and were not shy to voice their affection. And now there are plans and projects to include the teachings of Rabbi Sacks in schools and colleges in Israel. I cannot tell you how moving I find this – that his work and thoughts can be taught, and make a real, difference in Israel.

Over these months, I have had time to browse through some of the many, many books on our shelves. There’s one section taken up with Jonathan’s books in translation. There are books in Korean, Turkish, Dutch, Italian, German, French, Spanish. So many dedications from cities all over South America. And work is in progress now for translations into Arabic. It is extraordinary to feel that all these people around the world are reading his works and learning from his teachings.

I am very grateful for the last few years, spending quiet times together in Golders Green. Going out on our own, after the years as Chief Rabbi, was such an adventure. On a bus to the cinema, one Motzei Shabbat, we overheard excited teenagers behind us phoning their friends. “You’ll never guess who is on this bus!”

And last summer, we had the blessing of celebrating our Golden Wedding together with our children and grandchildren in our garden, in a brief lapse of the COVID restrictions.

I have been overwhelmed by all the love, all the care, all the friendships, old and more recent over these past months. Old friends have been writing, catching up with memories and updates about children and grandchildren. And in these COVID times, many beautiful walks filled with friendship, conversation, and many cups of coffee in the park.

I have always been sure that Hashem has been watching over us both. In difficult times, in bad times, something has always happened to turn it, to show that God is there guarding us. Even at the end, it was quick. How often do we see someone linger in pain and distress?

My dear husband passed in the early hours of Shabbat. His last words were, ”Good Shabbos” to the very kind doctor. Who could ask for more than that? 

Tzam’a Lecha Nafshi. My soul thirsts for you.