What would Rabbi Sacks do?

By Laura Seymour

Dear Families,

Again I have missed the deadline and am rushing to get something to the TJP for publication. Why have I missed the deadline? Simply, I do not know what to write and so many others say what is on our minds and in our hearts so much better. So I searched through so many writings to give me thoughts and found the words from Aish.com — “What Would Rabbi Jonathan Sacks Do?” Gila Sacks, the rabbi’s daughter, had organized an annual gathering of interfaith leaders but never anticipated the massacre in Israel. Here are the words that Gila Sacks thought her father would want us to do:

“Do not, even for a moment, accept that this is the way the world is,” she said. “We would perhaps be forgiven when faced with such immense tragedy if we were to seek comfort and tell ourselves that maybe, somehow, this is a part of God’s plan, that we don’t understand it, but we can accept it. That maybe we are destined to be a people who dwells alone, a people always under threat. No, we must not accept this. As my father wrote and taught, in Judaism, faith is not acceptance, but protest against the world that is, in the name of the world that is not yet, but ought to be. And so we must protest.

“Despair, my father wrote, is not a Jewish emotion,” she said. “Our hope has never been destroyed. But that is no small task. It takes a great deal of courage to have hope. Optimism is a passive virtue, a belief that things will get better, whereas hope is active, the belief that we can make them better. At its ultimate, he wrote, hope is the belief, not that God has written the script of history, but simply that he has given us the means to save us from ourselves, that we are not wrong to dream and wish and work for a better world. So we must find the strength to hope and not to despair.

“In an age of economic inequalities, it needs the Jewish insistence on tzedaka, charity as justice,” she said. “In an age of terror, it needs the Jewish insistence on the sanctity of life. Today, more than ever, I think [my father] would tell us not to forget that, that we must stand tall, stay true to why we are here and have the courage to engage with the world and all its challenges. We cannot let ourselves be defined by those who hate us. We will be defined by being a blessing to the world.”

Rabbi Sacks is no longer with us; however, we are so fortunate to have his legacy through so many books, articles, videos and more. It is easily accessible, translated into many languages, allowing us to continue to learn from his messages. Thank you for allowing me to spread such important messages — may we take comfort from his words and aspire to take action to help in our own ways every day.

Laura Seymour is Jewish experiential learning director and camp director emeritus at the Aaron Family JCC.

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