For Jews and for Gentiles, Jonathan Sacks Was a Prophet Who Warned of the Dangers of Secularism

With the recent death of Jonathan Sacks, the former chief rabbi of Great Britain, the Jewish people lost one of their foremost leaders and teachers. But to Meir Soloveichik, Sacks’s greatest legacy might have been in his ability to convey Judaic ideas to people of other faiths and of no faith at all. Soloveichik writes of the man he calls “the most gifted voice for biblical belief in his time”:

Britain gave the contemporary world two of its most influential atheists, Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins. And it was the same nation’s chief rabbi who developed the most forceful response to them. . . . Sacks wrote that for all their fame as critics of traditional religion, the New Atheists lacked “the passion of Spinoza, the wit of Voltaire, the world-shattering profundity of Nietzsche.”

Europe’s embrace of secularism, Sacks noted, was followed by a refusal to have children. “Europe is dying,” he bluntly observed in 2009. He said this was an unspeakable truth but he said it all the same. And because he always spoke in a measured manner, without antagonism, his voice reverberated. In the 20th century it was Communism that posed the greatest threat to people of faith. Several European leaders capably made the case against it. In 21st-century Europe, contemporary secularism continues its societal march, and it was Sacks who most ably stood atop the rhetorical religious ramparts. Who will take his place?

In her eulogy, Sacks’s daughter Gila described how, immediately after her father’s death, she turned to his most recently published reflections on the Torah passage read in synagogue that Sabbath. Jews around the world will continue to read his exegetical insights and learn from his remarkable mind. In this we will find consolation. But for other Europeans of faith whose greatest intellectual defender is now gone, what has been lost may well be irreplaceable.

Among those Sacks influenced were not only Christian and post-Christian Westerners, but also many Muslims, as Ed Husain writes:

Rabbi Sacks brought philosophy and theology together in a modern conversation on how to live as people of faith, with love for God, but also as loyal components of the modern world. The prophets came to teach us how to live in reality, not leave it.

In this pursuit, he was a pioneer and many Muslims in the West—and, more recently in Morocco, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan—have turned to the rabbi’s books, online videos, recorded conference appearances, and social-media clips. For a long while, his books were contraband. [But] many imams and Muslim activists saw in Rabbi Sacks’s writings a deep divine wisdom, the critical spirit of Aristotelian philosophy.

Read more at Wall Street Journal

More about: Jewish-Christian relations, Jewish-Muslim Relations, Jonathan Sacks, Judaism, New Atheists, Secularism

Iran’s Options for Revenge on Israel

On April 1, an Israeli airstrike on Damascus killed three Iranian generals, one of whom was the seniormost Iranian commander in the region. The IDF has been targeting Iranian personnel and weaponry in Syria for over a decade, but the killing of such a high-ranking figure raises the stakes significantly. In the past several days, Israelis have received a number of warnings both from the press and from the home-front command to ready themselves for retaliatory attacks. Jonathan Spyer considers what shape that attack might take:

Tehran has essentially four broad options. It could hit an Israeli or Jewish facility overseas using either Iranian state forces (option one), or proxies (option two). . . . Then there’s the third option: Tehran could also direct its proxies to strike Israel directly. . . . Finally, Iran could strike Israeli soil directly (option four). It is the riskiest option for Tehran, and would be likely to precipitate open war between the regime and Israel.

Tehran will consider all four options carefully. It has failed to retaliate in kind for a number of high-profile assassinations of its operatives in recent years. . . . A failure to respond, or staging too small a response, risks conveying a message of weakness. Iran usually favors using proxies over staging direct attacks. In an unkind formulation common in Israel, Tehran is prepared to “fight to the last Arab.”

Read more at Spectator

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Syria