L’Chayim Interview with JBS

Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks sits down with Mark S. Golub at the JBS (Jewish Broadcasting Service) and tells some of his more personal stories, including recollections of how meeting the Lubavitcher Rebbe and Rav Joseph Soloveitchik changed his life; his years as Chief Rabbi; and his evolution on Jewish pluralism. Filmed in February 2016.

AUTO-GENERATED SUBTITLES WITH TIME-STAMPS

0:01Jewish Education and media is pleased to present a programme that highlights the

0:07people issues and events of importance to the Jewish Community now here is your

0:14host Rabbi Mark

0:20GB I'm Mark Golub and every now and then though rarely but every now and then I

0:27have the great honour of introducing you to a Jewish

0:32Superstar you know there are many wonderful creative Dynamic individuals in the Jewish World making major

0:39contributions to Jewish life in Myriad of ways rabbis Educators Israeli leaders

0:44leaders of American Jewry and of world jewry and if you watch L on a regular

0:50basis you know I love many of them and have a profound appreciation for their

0:55passion and their commitment to Jewish life and then there are the superstars

1:03whose breadth of learning and strength of character and their unique vision for

1:09what Jewish life can be needs to be and their indefatigable energy and will to

1:15serve the Jewish people enables them to inspire Us in unique ways to become

1:22better people and better more engaged more involved

1:28Jews on this edition of l'chayim I have the privilege of sitting with a Rabbi

1:35Superstar who has for more than 25 years been an eloquent voice of Jewish

1:41conscience and of an all-encompassing Embrace of Torah it is my pleasure to

1:48 welcome here on JBS Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks the former

1:54Orthodox Chief Rabbi of the United Kingdom and one of the brilliant rabbinic lights on the world, you are

2:00seeing today and in orthodox circles across the board Jonathan Sacks is considered

2:06to be a rabbi's rabbi. Jonathan Sacks what a tremendous pleasure it is to have

2:13you at this table thank you very very much it's great to be with you uh let me

2:18tell you just a little bit about Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks who has a most impressive resume as much as I can tell

2:26you in a brief moment there's so much more that can be add and if you google

2:31Jonathan Sacks you'll see what I mean but here are some of what I believe to be the most important of Rabbi Sacks'

2:37achievements accomplishments and recognitions from 1991 to 2013 Jonathan

2:45Sacks was Great Britain's Chief Rabbi while also leading the largest synagogue in the UK the United synagogue in

2:532005 Rabbi Sacks was knighted by the Queen of England for his service to the

2:59community and to Interfaith relations he's the recipient of 16 honorary

3:05degrees including a doctorate of divinity conferred upon him by the

3:10Archbishop of Canterbury and he won the prestigious Jerusalem prize for his contribution to

3:17Diaspora Jewish Life currently Jonathan Sacks serves as the Ingeborg and Ira

3:23 Global distinguished professor of judaic thought at NYU New York

3:29University and as the crestle and arrat family University professor of Jewish thought at Yeshiva

3:37University as if that's not enough Jonathan saak is the author of 25 books

3:44which have won him many notable Awards including two national Jewish book awards one for a letter in the scroll

3:52and one for a covenant and conversation a personal favourite of mine

3:57is his book entitled future tense I recommend it to everyone all his

4:03books to everyone and his most recent book is a most relevant and timely one

4:10entitled not in God's name confronting religious violence published by Schoken

4:16books a superbly written critique of the Blasphemous ways in which religion is

4:23distorted to justify the wanting murder of others and once again Jonathan Sacks it is

4:31so wonderful to have you sitting at this table I've had the privilege of speaking to you once before on camera and also to

4:38be in your presence many times and you are doing an enormous service to the Jewish Community the Jewish World kak to

4:45you and thank you for joining me well thank you really um so I want to talk about many

4:52things before we talk about the book and some of your thoughts about Jewish life in general can I ask you a little bit

4:59about your own journey and where it begins and you know where you're born

5:05and the kind of home you're raised in in the parents you have where does the journey start for you

5:12Jonathan well my mother's family came really from

5:18Lithuania via Israel my great-grandfather who is a Lithuanian ra

5:25Rabbi and a very Orthodox scholarly person became um mobilized I think by

5:34the pograms in Russia in 1881 and decided that

5:41Aliyah was now a collective imperative for the Jewish

5:47people and uh he went and became a Pioneer I mean he stayed a rabbi but he

5:53built the first house in P wow um I have to explain a little here

5:59name his name was arel fromin and I have to explain here P was founded in

6:081878 so it was the first of the new yesu but all the original settlers

6:15caught malaria so they left and they lived some

6:21miles away and that's why Rishon Lon claims to

6:26be the first yeshu because it was the first continually continuously inhabited

6:32Yu in 1882 my grandfather led the return to

6:37peda built a house built a a school ran the school and it became an agricultural

6:45settlement yes in 1894 having turned this hill the to

6:51unfarmable land into quite a prosperous region uh the local Arabs attacked he

6:58felt it was not safe to bring up children there so he came to London so

7:05that is the sort of rabbinic history in my background. I never met my great-grandfather but I was aware that

7:11there were rabbis in the past but it my story really is more to

7:17do with my late father who came over as a young man as a refugee from bolet had to leave school at the age of

7:2514 there was only enough money in the family for one of the children to have an education and it wasn't him his name

7:31his name was Louie Sacks and um so he

7:37helped run the family business selling schmatters in commercial Road in London's East End which is like New York's Lower

7:44East Side now you know he was a an intelligent man and a cultured man who

7:51never had a chance and uh one thing stayed with me

7:57over the years it would take me to sure when I was 5 years old and I would ask him dad why did we do this why did we do

8:04that and he would turn to me and say Jonathan I didn't have an education so I can't answer your

8:11questions but one day you will have the education that I didn't have and when

8:18that happens you will teach me the answers to those questions oh how lovely

8:23so you know for your father to make you his teacher I mean what a greater gift

8:29can any child have than that so it kind of spurred me I be I was the first

8:36member of my family to go to university and do you have siblings I am the oldest

8:42of four boys all of whom did better than me at

8:47school in university so I'm the kind of Dumbo of the family but you know never

8:52mind is it true yeah absolutely true uh two of them today live in Israel and and

8:59um you know I just re sensed I was making up for a lost life that my father

9:07never had but would Lov to have had you grew up in an orthodox environment an orthodox home an orthodox Community it

9:14was a traditional family who but neither my parent neither of my parents knew very much MH so um I was really going

9:23where they hadn't been but for any parents watching I have to say very

9:29simply my parents may not have know very much and they didn't keep all that

9:35much but one thing they communicated to me and to my brothers was they

9:43were they were proud of being Jews happy to be in SHO my parents both worked very

9:51hard for the shul you know my father became the president of the shul my mother ran the Ladies' Guild and uh I I

10:01think if you can communicate to your children your love for Judaism that counts more than anything else and

10:07that's what they did for you absolutely that they also have a love for Israel because this is this is roughly what

10:14period of time this is uh well I was born at the same time as the state of

10:19Israel okay so the it's an infant state of Israel as you're growing up and you're now you know you become bar F age

10:26and then you're a young teenager was Israel reality in your life yeah it was

10:32while I was in my first year at University that my father who you know

10:38he couldn't afford this kind of thing so we'd never been to Israel uh and my father said to me in

10:46around April May 1967 he said let's go to

10:51Israel was the only bonding trip we ever did but it was eye openening and this was just about a

10:59month before The Six Day War we were there for one of the

11:04earliest incidents my father who was then 60 years old became a different person in

11:12Israel wow the years melted away he was a young man again he loved everything

11:20about Israel he became you know just

11:25jubilant I remember an episode that that was just you couldn't script a piece of

11:31fiction like this but it's true um he wanted to take me to a

11:39concert in Tel Aviv and they

11:44were playing one of his favourites which was Gustaf males D lead Von

11:51dead and we were on a bus talking in English and he was saying to

11:57me Mom as dle V this was the finest music he ever wrote and the bus driver

12:05turned around and said no The Ninth Symphony is better my father was in ecstasy in

12:13Israel a bus driver is a music critic I mean yeah you know where where in the world will you find something like this

12:20so he really communicated his love for Israel in the last years of his life

12:26when he was too old to travel he used to ask my mother to drive him up and down

12:31golders Green Road this is like I don't know you would say Williamsburg he said that's the next big thing to being in

12:38Israel you know and he envisaged... he imagined he was there in Israel Israel was to him

12:46everything I don't know how long he lived did he live long enough to see the success you had as a

12:52rabbi in his uh 80s he went through a series of very difficult operations on

12:58his hip and for me the thing that made my whole life

13:03worthwhile is on the 1st of September 1991 he was able walking on crutches to

13:11climb the steps to the Ark in the St John's Wood synagogue and do open the

13:17ark God and my induction as Chief Rabbi I you know he it was very very

13:24special for me and I think for him uh he died made uh five years later but again

13:32the other great moment in my life was my mother who was such a fan of the

13:39queen you know her name for her well she was Louisa but everyone called her Libby

13:46and uh to be to come to Buckingham Palace as the guest of the queen to see

13:52me kned in 2005 and that was you know I think to be a Jew is to try and give Nas

13:58to your parents and I just thank Hashem that I was able to do that for them those are beautiful

14:05stories Jonathan at what point do you decide you want to be a rabbi um quite

14:11late in life I already had another career other careers um but a year after that visit

14:21to Israel I said I I must learn more about

14:27Judaism and I came to America during my summer holiday in

14:3268 and met many rabbis and through chutzpah and dogged persistence I got to

14:40meet two very very special rabbis: Rabbi Joseph

14:45Soloveitchik and the Lubavitcher Rebbe

14:50 you met two of the greatest Rabbi lights in the history of the Jewish

14:55people how do you get close to them how did that happened oh my goodness

15:02oh I went to 770 walked in and said I've just come 3,000 miles to meet the Rebbe

15:08could I have an appointment please off the street you do this yeah yeah the fell about laughing they said do you

15:16know how many thousands of people are waiting to see the the the Rebbe come back next

15:21year come back in 10 years forget it but I gave them my name and I said

15:26look I don't know where I'm going to be because I was hitchhiking and busing around America on a Greyhound bus but I

15:33said I do know that I will be at some time with my aunt in Los Angeles that

15:38was the file point in my visit so here's her phone number and if by any chance

15:45the rubber can see me please give me a call there how old are you pardon how

15:50old are you here 20 20 and uh I think it was Sunday night or maybe

15:57it was motsei Shabbat the phone call comes through the Rebbe can see you on Thursday night now I had no money so the

16:05only way I could get from Los Angeles to New York was by sitting on a Greyhound

16:10bus which I don't recommend I really don't it's a long way to go on a bus but

16:16I sat with him and it was a life-changing encounter how well because what I had

16:23done with all the other rabbis was ask them my questions about faith and they

16:30answered I asked all these questions to the Rebbe and he answered them very quickly very

16:36rapidly and then he did a role reversal started asking me

16:41questions how many Jews are there at Cambridge University how many of them come to the

16:47Jewish Society of course how many Jews were there at Cambridge University we

16:53estimated at the time about a thousand how many came to the Jewish

16:58Society maximum 100 so we were losing 90% of our kids so

17:06he started asking what are you doing about it what are you doing about it and I said being very English in

17:13those days, ”in the position in which I find myself” and the Rebbe interrupted me

17:19in the middle of the sentence and said "you don't find yourself in a position ,you put yourself in a position. And if

17:25you put yourself in a position you can put yourself in a different position." He was challenging me to become

17:31a leader now the last thing in the world I ever dreamt of was becoming a leader

17:36let alone a rabbi. I mean absolutely not on my horizon at

17:42all but he was clearly saying you know you're there you've got to do something

17:48about it and many many years later I reflected on that and I said people got the rubber all wrong they thought here

17:55is a leader with thousands of followers I said it's true but it's the least

18:01interesting fact about him a good leader creates followers a great leader creates

18:09leaders and that's exactly what the Rebbe did for me okay you're 20 when this happens, you don't leave his office

18:16and become a rabbi? No. okay tell me about meeting with

18:22Rabbi Soloveitchik really challenged me to think is

18:28this the same trip same trip yeah what was it like to meet him he um normally

18:36sat in his class while his talmudim were preparing for his shiur and because he'd agreed to meet me

18:44he sat outside the class in the corridor in Yeshiva University and eventually we

18:51went into a room and he sat with me for an hour and told me all the things amazing

18:58things he told me his famous thing that the philosophy of Judaism has to be

19:06excavated from H this was a really really important

19:13moment for me I'd never seen that possibility that was his great K that's

19:18what made him the great thinker he was can you explain to those who are watching yeah all over America right now

19:24yeah what do he mean by excavate you know we people think here's

19:31a book it's got Jewish laws in or let's mention the one by my Mones the mission

19:39it's full of laws you you want to know what to do open that book here's another book completely different it's a book of

19:46Jewish philosophy let's call it the guide for the perplexed I know it's been done before but you okay so here's one

19:52book here's another book and there's no connection this is what Jews do this is what Jews think and believe and that is

19:59how everyone saw it until solvi came along and said no if you want to

20:04understand Jewish philosophy you got to open that book the book of laws and

20:10then meditate on those laws deeply enough go beneath ground level you know

20:18really now what made the rabbis think of these laws what made God give us these

20:23laws and you will begin to understand what Jewish thought is all about so for

20:29instance we have lots of laws about chuva that's why we have

20:35rash repentance now if you think deeply enough about repentance it only actually

20:42makes sense if we have free will because if everything is determined by our

20:48genes then we couldn't really have done anything about it so it's silly to

20:54repent and have remorse and it's ridiculous to think you can change because we are what we are because of

21:01our genetic endowment but the fact that Judaism has laws of repentance tells us we have free

21:08will so dig down deep enough into the What Lies Beneath the laws you will

21:14eventually come up with a Jewish philosophy now that was very very exciting I was studying philosophy at

21:20the time and nobody at Cambridge University ever told me anything remotely as interesting as that um he

21:28told me told me many other things but he told me about his friendship when uh he

21:33was a fellow student with laab Shere you're very very interesting told me

21:39about his personal debts to leage because his first teacher as a child was

21:45a katnik so you know people have now now that a lot of his stuff has been

21:51published that wasn't published in his lifetime people are more aware of this but actually um he knew the shba and he

21:59had strong kinship ties okay Jonathan I am fascinated by who you were at

22:0720 once again you were doing you were not meeting the the Lubavitcher Rebbe nor were

22:12you meeting Rob Soloveitchik because you wanted to be a rabbi correct I want so what was

22:18the drive what was it about what was it in you that you went looking for these

22:25two people because was we had lived through a year before

22:32the Six Day War now what people forget about the sixth day war is what it

22:39looked like before the War Began Before the War Began

22:45Egypt Syria Jordan were massing

22:51troops NASA had ordered the United Nations peacekeeping Force out of the

22:56Sinai desert he closed the Gulf of aaba it looked as if Israel were about

23:04to suffer the most momentous Onslaught and for a generation of my

23:09contemporaries born after the Holocaust it looked as if we were about to live

23:15through a second Holocaust God forbid and the most nonreligious

23:21Jews were coming to shul in Cambridge and doing every day we were all all

23:28caught up with this incredible fear and Trauma and then you know miraculously

23:36six days it was over but I was left with this afterthought it's true I'd been to

23:43Israel just a few weeks earlier but what made all of us feel so

23:51connected with a nation thousands of miles away most of whose population we'd

23:56never met this was not a religion in an ordinary sense this was not Judaism like

24:05Christianity or Islam or whatever it was that I grew up with you know the kind of thing you do in a house of worship and

24:12and at home all of a sudden this was about peoplehood about connection about

24:18history about hate about goodness knows what I mean we had been there in one of

24:25the most extraordinary moments of Jewish history it wasn't just me it changed it changed all of the Soviet Jews people

24:32like Natan and Avital Sharansky all of them were suddenly had something

24:37kindled and you wanted to know what is this thing and that's why I took that

24:43summer to go to America and ask rabbis to try and explain it to me you said that there were questions of

24:50Faith you were asking rabbis can you share one of those questions with me well the point about

24:58philosophy as I was doing it was that there was not a single philosopher

25:03almost none in the whole of Britain who believed in God they were all atheists or agnostics in fact the first thing you

25:10do when you're studying philosophy or at least you did in those days was to prove that all the proofs for God's existence

25:17don't work they're untrue they don't work I mean this never really bothered me I mean deep down I have to say I was

25:24not torn and conflicted is you know at

25:29the end of the day I I had that love that my parents had given me for Yiddish

25:34kind so you know I mean this was quite this was not

25:41existentially threatening it was just curious Whoever thought in the first place that you'd sit down and prove that

25:49God exists I mean it's just not a Jewish thing you don't sit down and write some

25:54abstract proof that God exists what you do is you remember your people's history

26:00we were rescued From Slavery to Freedom we survived while all the empires that tried to attack us disappeared from

26:06history I mean you you don't sit down and construct something called the

26:12ontological argument you know and just play with words so I I I was never

26:17threatened by it but they there were sort of conventional questions if God knows in advance what we're going to do

26:23how do we have free will etc etc I got it the the Sofer the to graduate question good for you okay so then you

26:31say to me but becoming a rabbi is something that came to you later in life yeah how did it come to you why did you

26:38become a rabbi finally well the rabbi challenged me to lead which I did I went straight back and became head of the

26:45Jewish Society in Cambridge and because of his

26:52pain at the loss of Jews from University um

26:58um I actually became the sort of student chaplain or the what would You' call the

27:04hillow chaplain or something at Cambridge uh uh we'd got married already and I was

27:12doing research but doctoral research um so in an amateurish sort of

27:17way lay sort of way i' done some leadership but you know over as the

27:23years passed I I I taught philosophy and I I was say was about to qualify as a

27:29lawyer but as the years passed I realized that none of my contemporaries

27:35from University were going into the rabet many of them had become religious

27:41because of that experience of the sixth day war it was transformative moment for

27:47many of my contemporaries a lot of them made alah but none of them became rabbis and I

27:54thought For Heaven's Sake you know if nobody else is going to do it it let's do it um and that was when I was 25 that

28:02I began to study for the rabbi and you become a rabbi at what age at 28 and

28:07when at what age do you be and how do you end up Chief Rabbi of Great

28:13Britain um well I went back to the RAB

28:18you 10 years later 78 after I uh um after I got

28:26SM um uh and he gave me Smith in Great Britain yeah yeah two different kinds of

28:33Smith and Britain uh the traditional one and um the the what you would call the

28:41Israeli Chief renant one and the rebber told me I've got to go and train

28:48rabbis so I became head of Jews College which was our retical

28:54Seminary and then um you know those Lord jacobovitz retired yes and

29:02did you know him of course sure man yes yeah yeah very

29:07remarkable and um that asked me to be his successor so you know were you hesitant

29:15at all or were you thrilled with the opportunity I was very hesitant and so

29:20was my family because because it's a very public

29:25role um you don't have a private life in a situation like that you become a

29:31figure on the national stage it's a very weighty responsibility because how you are perceived affects how the Jewish

29:38Community is perceived and I didn't go anywhere for 22 years without a Protection

29:46Officer so we were all very very iffy about it I asked a couple of rinal

29:55leaders whom I admired most and they told me to do it so eventually um I said

30:03to elain and and the kids and they are so supportive it was extraordinary three

30:10three children um would you mind if I ask the

30:17rubber because when you ask the rubber you do what he says I mean that's the terms of the the relationship if he says

30:26do it you do it and if he says don't do it you don't do it so they took a deep breath and said

30:32Dad if you feel okay so you went back to the Reby and asked him so I went back to the re

30:38and asked him and he I wrote to him you know all the yes the pros and cons the

30:43reasons to the reasons not to and I wrote should I accept the position if offered in the rubber who before he

30:50became rabba ran the um kabad Publishing House knew all the typ of graphical

30:57symbols that proof readers use and when he could answer without using a word and

31:04just use a typographical symbol that's how he would do it so he answered my

31:09question that question without a single word he wrote when I where I written should I he

31:17used the invert word Order symbol so should I became I should and that was

31:22his answer marvelous all one more question on this line M as you look back

31:29at your more than 20 years as a chief Rabbi you know not what was the most

31:35wonderful moment but what was the what was the challenge

31:42for you that you felt either most frustrated

31:47by or just how wonderful it was you were able to break through but as you look at

31:54that Arc of years and you did remarkable work Jonathan as Chief Rabbi and it's

32:00interesting I don't know if you understand you were Chief Rabbi of the United Kingdom but really for World

32:07jewelry you became a major leader for all of us and we were reading you and

32:13watching you and when you spoke you spoke in the name of many of us who had

32:20nothing to do with Great Britain but as you look back on it is there something

32:25that you say to yourself you know this was the greatest challenge I had and I

32:31was successful to certain extent and at some to some extent I really feel the

32:36challenge you know still still exists now I think I think there were two

32:42things that that um first of all I knew um and this is a very British

32:50issue uh I knew that we would not have a future unless we got Jewish kids to

32:59Jewish Day schools you can live on inherited wealth

33:05for only so long and you can live on inherited identity for only so long my

33:12estimate was three generations so if you come from a family of inherited wealth and you're a member

33:19of the fourth generation if you want to be rich you got to make it yourself and the same about identity and I told our

33:27community our kids are the fourth generation and I have to say you know

33:34the the community was terrific I mean it was

33:39their doing not my doing I was just cheering from the sideline but we when I began there were

33:4625% of Jewish children at Jewish Day schools and when I left there were 70% W

33:54so you know that that was a community wide achievement but they heard your

34:00message they heard and you know it's it you know it's just doing these things is

34:06very humbling that's the honest truth they heard the message they ran with it

34:12they built the schools they raised the money and they became great schools and

34:17um a source of Pride not only to us but I think to the nation the other thing I felt very

34:24strongly is you know why is that anti-Semitism I mean it's

34:29complex complex issue but at least one reason is people fear what they don't

34:37understand and people didn't really know the general public didn't really know what do Jews believe what do they do

34:44what do they like at home and we kind of kept a low

34:51profile and I felt for all sorts of reasons that the time had come to to

34:57take a high profile to share our gifts with the British public at large so I

35:04did a lot of radio and television and writing for the national press some of my books were written for non-jews not

35:10just Jews and I think the effect was to make the British public as a whole feel you

35:16know what we Now understand Judaism a bit better and we like it because Jews

35:24don't try and convert US I mean it's a very important thing we're very

35:29unthreatening and so I always in my broadcast was tacitly saying this is how

35:36we see things if it works for you great and if it doesn't that's okay and people

35:41like that so I think the end result was Jews felt a little more

35:47comfortable in owning up to their jewishness in public it's not a problem you have in America but it's a problem

35:52we have in Europe and um I think we brought Judaism I call it bringing the voice of

36:00Judaism into the conversation of humankind and I think that those two things were really great but it was just

36:08a huge privilege and elain and I thanked Hashem for every day really because to

36:14be able to serve the Jewish community in that way is is just it's a great great gift and we enjoyed it thank you for

36:22sharing that with me and it leads me into now some questions about how you

36:27View Jewish life today as opposed to talking about your personal life as you

36:32look at where Jewish life is in Europe but beyond Europe you have a real sense

36:40of what's going on here in American Jewish life and there's also a question about what Jewish life will be like in

36:48the state of Israel as well Jonathan Sacks what gives you most pause what

36:53concerns you most what's the what are the challenges is you know your own Pew

36:58report in in essence what do you feel at the moment are the largest threats to

37:06the Jewish future well there are two real issues One external and one

37:11internal the external one we know all about anti-Semitism has

37:16returned unfortunately what happened was after the Holocaust Europe created this remarkable

37:25immune system 50 years of Holocaust Education

37:30Interfaith dialogue anti-racist legislation what they didn't really

37:36realize or appreciate is that over the past 100

37:43years Europe had infected the Middle East with anti-Semitism

37:51which entered the bloodstream of Islam and became very dangerous so and that

37:57world now has brought it back to Europe so that's worrying and it's worrying

38:03systemically because you see it on the one hand in the international isolation of Israel and on the other hand the real

38:10risk to European Jewish communities but as I have said and of course as events

38:17in Europe have repeatedly borne out if it's not safe to be a Jew in Europe then

38:22it's not safe to be a European in Europe so that's the external challenge the

38:28internal challenge was probably put very well by

38:34President rivlin of Israel when he said Israel there's no longer an

38:39Israel majority and minorities he said we have become a country of four

38:45minorities there the secular Israelis the religious Israelis the Ked or Ultra

38:51Orthodox Israelis and there are the Arab Israelis

38:57and they really are not cohering as a single nation they don't share a

39:02narrative a sense of identity a sense of linked Fortune so those internal divisions in

39:09Israel are dangerous in World jurrian hoods lats in

39:15the diaspora those divisions take a different form but you could see here in

39:21America how Israel always used to unite Jews and it's begun to divide Jews

39:26and that's very worrying because Jews are a very strong resilient people the

39:32only thing we are not good at surviving is division within our own ranks and For

39:39Heaven's Sake sitting here in America can I forget Abraham Lincoln Saying A house divided against itself cannot

39:46stand so those are the two problems very often when people talk

39:53about you and they mention all the things things that you have done to contribute

39:59to Jewish life if they ever criticize or worry about where you've St

40:05stood the issues that I see discussed are mentioned are to what extent does Jonathan Sacks

40:13open to American streams of Jewish pluralism meaning non-orthodox

40:20expressions of Judaism can you explain how you view

40:26non-orthodox whether it's reformed conservative Reconstructionist anything that is of um that is not within a

40:35hierarchically committed ideology My Views have changed very

40:42considerably really yeah I'm an orthodox Jew and you know I kind of hope people

40:49will understand and accept that but I used to see my uh fundamental task ask

40:58as uh defender of the faith you know standing on the

41:04battlements repelling the attackers and so on but pretty soon I realized this

41:10was just not the right way of seeing the Jewish people the Jewish people has been

41:15through a lot of trauma these last two centuries as a result of which we've

41:22splintered and fragmented and frankly um I came to the conclusion that

41:30rather than you know standing there defending the battlements I ought to go

41:37out there and embrace the crowd and that became very important to me when did that happen for you it

41:44happened about 10 or 15 years ago good for you and I then formulated two

41:51principles which I needed as Chief RBI so the two principles go like this

41:58on all matters that affect us as Jews regardless of our religious differences we will work together regardless of our

42:06religious differences the second principle on all issues that touch on our religious differences we will agree

42:13to differ but with respect so that meant that I was able to work with conservative reform liberal

42:20and secular Jews on a full half of the agenda of Anglo Je

42:26we work together on Interfaith we work together to defend Israel we work together to fight anti-Semitism we work

42:34together to do social action to do welfare and all the rest so all of these things I was happy to work together and

42:41very publicly and conspicuously together the issues that we couldn't work

42:48together are synagogue and and at least some of the schools and um there we differed but

42:55with respect and when I took those two principled stands people really understood them and

43:04we calmed what otherwise might have been what otherwise might have been and what otherwise sometimes was turbulent time

43:12right now we should be holding out the hand of love and warmth and welcome to

43:18every Jew and we leave all the um theological judgments to the Almighty

43:26he's better at it than we are okay I want to explain from your

43:33perspective the difference between being a hierarchically committed Jew a Jew who

43:39is committed to Jewish law and Jewish tradition and a

43:45fundamentalist now you've written this book not in God's name it is a

43:50beautifully beautifully written book and for people who might imagine it's about confronting

43:57religious violence and when I before I opened the book I had a sense of what I

44:02thought Jonathan saak was going to do in the book and then every chapter takes the reader on a

44:12journey on another theme very often of a rabbi theme very often you have all of

44:19these biblical chapters that you reference chapter by chapter in your book and it's a really book of um how do

44:28Jews Embrace Life and where do and why is it you

44:33argue that mainstream Jewish thought has never uh permitted itself to embrace

44:42violence the book is so timely right now as we sit at this table and by the way

44:48Jonathan you know there will be hundreds of thousand of people watching on television but then this program goes online it will be online forever and

44:55there are tens of thousands of people who then one day will come across this people who see this should know you and

45:01I are sitting in the you know in the shadow of

45:07this horrific event in Paris where uh

45:12groups of jihadists ultimately killed no fewer than 129 130 people the number May grow

45:20because there are many right now who are in hospitals in very critical condition the world has been stunned it's been

45:26called paris's 911 and it is a question of you know how

45:32does the world confront Islamic jihadist terrorism so

45:38your book has a power of particular moment so I'm very glad we're sitting

45:44here at this time but it's but it's a book and you and I talked off camera why you wrote this book and it's been in

45:51process for a long time and it has a great meaning than

45:58simply a moment that was very horrific for Paris and what I find in your book

46:05is you're trying to address themes that are critical to Jewish life to biblical

46:10life and to religions as a whole it's an extremely well-written beautiful book

46:17now I want to read one little section to you and it comes back to my question I

46:22want to hear how you would separate commitment to from fundamentalism this is what

46:31Jonathan Sacks wrote fundamentalism you write is so

46:36dangerous and so untraditional interesting choice of words it is the

46:43tendency to read texts literally and apply them directly to go straight from

46:51Revelation to application without interpretation

46:57in many religions including Judaism I believe you mean especially

47:02Judaism this is heretical that's what you write about

47:08fundamentalism you're very critical of fundamentalism but I want you to explain

47:15how you understand the difference between a commitment to which many

47:20people associate with fundamentalist Judaism from the fundamentalism that you

47:25are critical of in not in God's name

47:31something is absolutely fundamental to Judaism and it is uh part of the famous

47:39story of the Gentile who came to Hill yes and wanted to convert and said how

47:45many terrorists do you believe in in Hill said two are written Terror and oral Terror and the convert says to him

47:52um I'm willing to believe in the written teror forget the oral T but convert me you know in other words he's saying to H

47:59um convert me on the condition that I can be a heretic well H has clearly been through

48:07the process that I went through in learning to love people with whom we don't agree on everything and so he

48:14accepts this man and he starts teaching him the alive base so the first day he

48:21teaches them olive based gimmel good fine the guy goes away comes back the

48:27next day for his lesson and H says gimo base Alf and the guy says yesterday you did

48:34it in the opposite order which is it and Hill says you see you have to rely on me

48:42the teacher even to learn Olive base how much more to learn what the Bible

48:48actually means so that is the Jewish view there's

48:54a written Torah there's an oral Torah and there's Revelation there's

49:00interpretation and those go hand in hand and that's why

49:06fundamentalism is heretical in Judaism because it means written teror without

49:12oral Terror now this is not an abstract thing we know of the Samaritans in

49:18second temple Judaism we know of the kites in the Middle Ages who were in

49:24that sense fundamentalists so for instance um why is it do you think that

49:31lighting shers candles is such a sign of Jewish identity the answer is that kites read

49:39in the ter L varu do not Kindle a light in your house on the Sabbath day and

49:46they interpreted that to mean there should be no light burning in the house so if you came across somebody sitting

49:54on Friday night eating their dinner in darkness you knew that was a carite if

49:59you saw somebody sitting with candles you knew that was a rabbanite not you know so that's why shabas candles are a

50:06symbol of Jewish identity because the fundamentalists were the karaites and uh so um Judaism has this

50:17history of interpretation but what I've tried to say in my book is so does

50:22Christianity so does Islam you cannot have a religion without authoritative

50:28traditions of interpretation so you know I I wanted to show Muslims in particular

50:35don't lose that great tradition that once you know between the 10th and 12th

50:41centuries in Spain made Islam at the Forefront of Tolerance and intellectual

50:47openness I it's not as if Islam was never there it was there and earned the

50:52admiration of the world so that's how might distinguish between Hal and

50:58fundamentalism fundamentalism is abolishing the oral law Hal is accepting

51:04and applying the oral law yes it's interesting you're pointing out that a halakic Jew Embraces the notion of rinic

51:12interpretation it's essential yes essential yeah

51:18um and only because I have you at this table you have studied the great

51:24philosophers throughout Jewish history I'm curious to hear how you

51:30relate to an Abraham Joshua Hessel or Martin bber both of whom are trying to

51:38articulate the existential religious essential moment what it means to stand

51:44in God's presence but each of them use their own metaphor and hesel talks about awe and

51:53the sense of standing in the the presence of the awesome Grandeur of

51:58God's Universe while bber talks about the I thou

52:04experience and when the more one reads AER a hesel

52:10all of the father one realizes they're all talking about the same moment and

52:15same Human Experience but they're talking about it in different imagery in

52:20different language that maybe at one point resonates with the reader yeah as

52:27you come across hesel and Boer and any other of the major philosophers how do

52:32you relate to them are you do you give them credit do they bother you do you

52:38embrace them especially hesel and bber hashel and bber were two exceptionally

52:45great Jewish thinkers hasel he is the great poet of Jewish

52:54theology and his books are incredibly moving I

52:59mean all of them they were really remarkable and I think they remain very

53:06Vivid and very really magnificent he was a hugely learned

53:12scholar and knew his sources in a most remarkable way so hesel is somebody with

53:20whom I I relate very very much yes Martin as you know um focused on one

53:28specific dimension of Judaism to the exclusion of some others and he was very close as you

53:35know to a thinker called France Rosen and Rosen [ __ ] himself was critical of

53:41the fact that buba wrote at Judaism without Hal without any real observance

53:46at all yeah what both of them did especially Martin buer is that they were

53:54spokes people people for Yuda Hali in our time and I want to explain this in

54:01in relation to Martin UDA Ley talks about the difference between the god of the

54:07philosophers and the god of the prophets the god of Aristotle and the god of

54:12Abraham and to some extent um he attributes that to the

54:17difference in the two names of God Elohim and

54:24Hashem Elohim is God in creation the shaper of forces the kind

54:30of God of physics if you like the god of Einstein and

54:36Hashem is the god who speaks to us and to whom we

54:41speak Hashem is a proper name it's like you know it's it's it's he's a friend I

54:48mean he's a parent is a so Hali made that distinction and that is

54:55precisely what Martin bber was restating in his idea of the

55:01relationship between I it between me and things Elohim and I thou my relationship

55:10with Hashem as a person Hashem and clearly that's Central I I

55:18have translat written commentaries to the S and the marar and I'm convinced

55:24that the key word of prayer is

55:29em you this means we're not talking to a computer we are not talking to a higs

55:37boson the God particle we're not talking to some uh random fluctuation in the

55:43quantum field we are talking to somebody who hears us who speaks to us who

55:50creates Us in love and that of course sometimes I mean hesel was much more

55:56elaborate thinking than Martin bber in many ways Martin boer's Brilliance lay

56:02in the fact that he covered many disciplines I mean I we tend to only remember him for one book right but he

56:09must have written close on aund of them and and he loved kism even though he was not an observant Jew one of his great

56:17one of one of his great things was making the tales of theim accessible he

56:23made he wrote this two volume anthology of tales of the one of his earliest

56:28Works was translating the stories and epig aphorisms of RA nman of

56:34bratslav he too had a very distinguished grandfather I'm sure you know this his

56:40grandfather schlomo buba who was a businessman and Banker was actually a

56:45Jewish scholar of the highest possible standing who came to Britain went to the

56:52British library and was riffling through the Hebrew manuscripts and suddenly realizes this

57:01is a mid rush we have been searching for for centuries uh we know because it figures

57:09in some anthologies that there was a midra called yamu which is you know in in 2,000 years

57:17ago very often there would be an ask the rabbi session in shul and somebody would

57:24ask a question the rabbi and a rabbi would build a speech around the answer to that question and Rabbi

57:31tanum was known as the master of this genre so and and schlomo buba discovered

57:39this manuscript published it for the first time and it's known as buas tanuma

57:44yes and so um both hesel and buba came

57:49from extraordinary grandparents yes and they Translate Ed some very traditional

57:57and beautiful ideas about Judaism into some very Vivid and poetic language

58:04that's beautiful so I want to hear what you have to say about the most serious

58:09problem confronting American Jewish Social Life the issue of intermarriage and you've seen how

58:17American life has evolved and within the non-orthodox world there's also an

58:23attempt to be as embracing of All Peoples as possible and there have been

58:28major movements now which have embraced the notion of a gay couple also having a

58:34Jewish form of marriage that's also something which I understand is something you have come out against but

58:41I wish you would talk for one moment about how you view American Jewish life

58:47coping with the issue of intermarriage but it's not like it doesn't also exist in Great

58:52Britain yeah but in intermarriage is a is an expression of Jewish assimilation

58:58yeah and the question is how does the Jewish Community strategize how do we deal with this

59:06phenomenon which now there is almost no family on the American scene and it even

59:11is in the edges of the Orthodox Community very much much much of a different nature but within non-orthodox

59:17judism there's almost no family that does not have somewhere in it the issue

59:23of intermarriage how do you view what is your suggestion what is your

59:29prescription for how Jewish life should should deal with the intermarried couple

59:34now should rabbis ever perform intermarriages and what do you do with the issue of the gay

59:40marriage look as far as I'm concerned I always try to get to the

59:46bottom of things you know there are enough people who can deal with this stuff above above ground level I try and

59:52get to the root of things and um the most serious phrase I use is

1:00:01start with why don't tell me what don't tell me how

1:00:07tell me why why am I Jewish and a whole generation a whole

1:00:14series of generations failed to answer that question so the Jews came to who came to

1:00:22America had one answer to the question why be Jewish why because my parents

1:00:28were Jewish my Bobba and zider were Jewish their parents were Jewish now you come to America a new

1:00:36land you don't do anything else just because your parents did so so why

1:00:41should you stay Jewish just because your parents did so one of the great uh contributions of

1:00:51Jews to the theater was a play by Israel's anguil called The Melting Pot

1:00:57and you know this plot of that this was 1911 uh Theodore Rosevelt went to see

1:01:04it um a Jew and a Christian meet in America

1:01:10they're both from Russia and they fall in love and they're about to get married and

1:01:16then the Jew discovers that the father of the Christian girl was the CAC who

1:01:23murdered his family in kishinev and all of a sudden he realizes

1:01:29he's marrying the enemy and he says yeah this is America

1:01:34in Russia Christians kill Jews in America forget Jews forget Christians

1:01:40this is The Melting Pot something new we will both be American not Jewish not

1:01:46Christian American so that was a whole generation that failed to answer the

1:01:52question why comes the

1:01:58generation that I grew up in and it is remembering the Holocaust

1:02:06it's remembering the sixth day war shaah Ura the

1:02:14Holocaust and the might of Israel and uh the most famous

1:02:21formulation of that was by a an American je thinker Canadian Jewish thinker

1:02:26called Emil fenhe who said that in our day a 614th command has been added to

1:02:32the Torah Thou shalt not hand Hitler or postumus Victory and that became the why

1:02:40of a new generation of American Jews that is the worst why I have ever heard

1:02:46in my life absolutely right because if I'm only Jewish because of Hitler then I

1:02:52know that Hitler murdered a million and a half Jewish children because they had

1:02:59Jewish grandparents do I want to inflict that risk on my grandchildren if that's

1:03:05the reason to be Jewish I let me out of here as fast as possible so you can see

1:03:11the impact across a century of Jewish life of failing to answer the question

1:03:17why both because my parents were and so as not and Hitler apost Victory are bad

1:03:26bad answers to the question so unless you answer that question why should I be

1:03:32Jewish in the 21st century you are not going to achieve anything

1:03:38whatsoever I have spent my life trying to in recent years trying to answer why

1:03:44so you know that's first answer the question why once you answer that you

1:03:51can begin to get people to say yes yes you know what I'm going to build a

1:03:57Jewish home I'm going to have Jewish children then we'll worry about the issues of conversion and status to me

1:04:07first answer the question why and then get people to see that giving your

1:04:14children a Jewish upbringing is the greatest gift we can give them I mean at

1:04:20every level it gives a child a sense of identity a sense of History a family

1:04:27narrative Judaism teaches us to overachieve intellectually because for

1:04:33us study is the highest value Judaism teaches us you know there's a an

1:04:39American psychologist called Walter michell who created something called the marsh mow test do you know this you take

1:04:47four-year-old kids and you put a marshmallow in front of them and you say you can eat it now or you can wait

1:04:54for 20 minutes and we'll give you two marshmallows you can trace their

1:05:01performance age four on for 20 40 years and if they're able to wait for 20

1:05:07minutes without eating the marshmallow they are going to do better in life in academic life they're more

1:05:15likely to go to Harvard they're more likely to be High Flyers in any career and it always all can I avoid eating a

1:05:22marshmallow for 20 minutes in order to have two in 20 minutes time now every

1:05:27detail of Judaism laws of milk and meat for instance

1:05:33are rituals of learning to control the gratification of instinct so you give

1:05:41kids a training in what it is just to keep meat and milk just to keep kosher

1:05:46you're giving them a discipline that's going to have an impact on their SAT scores on their chance of a happy

1:05:53marriage and the chance of being CEO of a major public corporation now if I

1:05:58could give that to my kids sense of identity family community a sense of discipline a sense

1:06:06of intellect if I could do that for free wouldn't I say that's the next best

1:06:13thing to um allowing them to be part of a royal family I mean we are a part of a

1:06:19royal family we've been around twice as long as Christianity three times as long

1:06:25as Islam we are 100th of their size and yet we have a huge impact on the world I

1:06:33think the greatest gift my parents ever gave me was Judaism if I can persuade a few American

1:06:40Jews of that you won't have a problem of Jewish

1:06:45continuity you're magnificent it s CL uh the work you do is is wonderful may you

1:06:52go from strength to strength thank you in all you do I love talking to you you

1:06:58have to promise me this is a semicolon not a period you'll come back and sit here one another time you go to deal

1:07:03thank you well done thank you the thoughts of Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks

1:07:09amazing former Chief Orthodox Rabbi of Great Britain the author of not in God's

1:07:15name confronting religious violence published by Shen books it's about how

1:07:21one is a mention in this world it's a fabulous read it should be part of your home Library as always I invite you to

1:07:28be in touch with me any thoughts or comments you may have to any of the ideas expressed by Jonathan saaks please

1:07:34email me write me post on our Facebook page or tweet me I look forward to

1:07:40hearing from many of you until the next time I'm Mark gallb my friends to

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