A Tribute to Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks z"l - The Global Rabbi
This week was a very sad week for Jewish communities around the globe, hearing the news of the passing of Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks z”l, Rav Ya’akov Tzvi ben David Aryeh. Rabbi Sacks is a once-in-a-generation Rabbi, who was able to bridge boundaries and be in many worlds simultaneously and authentically. Rabbi Sacks was a genuine philosopher who could serve as both the Chief Rabbi of the United Synagogue in the UK and the Commonwealth at the same time. Rabbi Sacks was able to give Derashot in the Marble Arch Shul in London and also speak eloquently and inspirationally at a TED Talk in Vancouver, BC - he could do both and seem at home in either environment.
Rabbi Sacks was deeply entrenched in Jewish culture and also could appreciate the international language of culture, history, music, arts, and theatre. He was able to cut through all streams, nationalities, and religious affiliations. Rabbi Sacks was respected by Christians, Jews, and other faiths. Even within the many divisions of the Jewish community, Rabbi Sacks was revered in all streams of Judaism, which is remarkable in and of itself. Jewish people flocked to hear Rabbi Sacks whether they were Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, or unaffiliated. This is especially amazing because Rabbi Sacks was the voice of Orthodox Judaism to the world, and represented the United Synagogue, which is the mainstream Orthodox organization in the UK and the Commonwealth.
I was able to meet Rabbi Sacks up close when he was in Wellington last December as part of the tour group we hosted. I want to share a story from my conversations with Rabbi Sacks last year on the last international trip of his life, to New Zealand. We had the Zechut, the merit, of hosting Rabbi Sacks for a weekend in early December of 2019, where the two main events for the community was Rabbi Sacks giving the Derasha on Shabbat morning and a community meal for Se’uda Shelishit, where Rabbi Sacks shared a derasha about the importance of the siddur.