Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks was a British Jewish Rabbi, philosopher, politician, and author of more than 30 books. In this conversation, Miroslav Volf interviews Rabbi Sacks about Jewish perspectives on human flourishing, joy, sabbath and work, and the deeply communal and particular nature of Jewish faith as a witness to the common good. Rabbi Sacks died on November 7, 2020. May his memory be a blessing.
This episode starts with a 12-minute reflection and memorial from Miroslav Volf, followed by a 40-minute conversation with Rabbi Sacks.
Or, watch the entire conversation here:
- The Jewish vision of a life worth living: life going well, life led well, life feeling as it should.
- Following the Mosaic Law, as a means to etching everyday life with the charisma of holiness.
- “How would you take an ordinary life, and imbue it with a sense for the transcendence?"
- The Hebrew Bible’s focus on “life down here”—building a sense for God’s presence here and now, as opposed to only in the afterlife.
- The Law exists because “you did not serve God with joy and goodness of heart, out of the abundance of all good things."
- "The product of the life well lived is joy."
- "Joy in Judaism is always done in the company of others… a kind of shared celebration.… Everyone’s got to feel included to be a Jewish joy."
- “God is somebody very close. This is not a philosopher’s God. … This is God as next-door neighbor."
- Sabbath and Joy: The End Not of Work, but the End of Striving
- Sabbath is “as if you were guests at God’s table."
- "Sabbath is the most remarkable of all utopias because it’s now."
- Sabbath is a celebration of the good of merely being and being in God’s being: Liminal space, a time out of time.
- How our personal lives of flourishing fit into the larger vision of flourishing society as a whole
- Communal life. Faith in Judaism as “the redemption of our solitude."
- Closeness to God as the summum bonum (the highest good”) of Judaism.
- Creation, Revelation, and Redemption in Judaism
- "Judaism is a religion of protest against the world’s first great empires."
- Ecclesiastes as the best critique of modern consumerism
- On failure and human imperfection. "Judaism is a religion of forgiveness. God empowers us to fail."
- "The routinization of charisma” and constant access to divine forgiveness
- The role of punishment in Judaism, divine vengeance, and “why do the righteous suffer?"
- Victor Frankl and "the will to meaning”—history is not just what Joseph Heller (Catch-22) called “A trash bag of random coincidences, blown in the wind."
- The life worth living is a life suffused with meaning.
About Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks
Rabbi Sacks is the author of over 30 books. His most recent work, Morality: Restoring the Common Good in Divided Times (2020), was a top ten Sunday Times bestseller. Past works include: Not in God’s Name: Confronting Religious Violence; The Great Partnership: God, Science and the Search for Meaning; The Dignity of Difference: How to Avoid the Clash of Civilizations, winner of the Grawemeyer Prize for Religion in 2004 for its success in defining a framework for interfaith dialogue between people of all faiths and of none; To Heal a Fractured World: The Ethics of Responsibility; and A Letter in the Scroll: On Being Jewish, winner of a National Jewish Book Award in 2000. Rabbi Sacks was knighted by Her Majesty The Queen in 2005 and made a Life Peer, taking his seat in the House of Lords in October 2009. He died on November 7, 2020.