Jonathan Sacks: A Rabbi Whose Vision of the Jews as a Creative Minority Was a Message to All People of Faith

Nov. 13 2020

The former chief rabbi of England, Jonathan Sacks—who died last Shabbat—was, in Mark Gottlieb’s words: “perhaps the last of [an] increasingly rare breed: the orthodox sage on the world stage; counsel to kings, queens, presidents, and prime ministers.” Examining the hopefulness and wisdom with which Sacks confronted the problems of our age, Gottlieb writes:

Although sometimes depicted as a conservative for certain social-cultural stands, in his politics Rabbi Sacks retained classical liberal loyalties. This was true from his days as an undergraduate at Cambridge to his last publication, Morality, released just last month. His principled aversion to political correctness throughout his life is more a token of his classical liberalism and embrace of epistemological pluralism than any purported conservatism, but he also had definite communitarian leanings, evident especially in his philosophically traditionalist The Home We Build Together.

Tellingly, upon taking his seat in the House of Lords after being awarded a lifetime peerage, Rabbi Sacks was a “crossbencher,” avoiding party allegiances to Labor or Conservative lines. For Rabbi Sacks, as his spiritual mentors Rabbis [Menachem Mendel] Schneerson and [Joseph B.] Soloveitchik emphasized, human experience is dialectical and Orthodoxy must always transcend and absorb right and left, conservative and liberal—or even progressive.

Transcending what he viewed as the false alternatives of cultural secession and assimilation to the deepening demands of secular consumerism, relativism, and anomie, Rabbi Sacks powerfully articulated a third way, what he playfully but seriously dubbed the Jeremiah option. . . . Rabbi Sacks . . . argued for the durability and lasting relevance of the “creative minority,” something all people of faith, and not just Jews, must now identify with.

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Read more at First Things

More about: Jonathan Sacks, Judaism, Religion

Reforms to Israel’s Judiciary Must Be Carefully Calibrated

The central topic of debate in Israel now is the new coalition government’s proposed reforms of the nation’s judiciary and unwritten constitution. Peter Berkowitz agrees that reform is necessary, but that “the proper scope and pace of reform, however, are open to debate and must be carefully calibrated.”

In particular, Berkowitz argues,

to preserve political cohesiveness, substantial changes to the structure of the Israeli regime must earn support that extends beyond these partisan divisions.

In a deft analysis of the conservative spirit in Israel, bestselling author Micah Goodman warns in the Hebrew language newspaper Makor Rishon that unintended consequences flowing from the constitutional counterrevolution are likely to intensify political instability. When a center-left coalition returns to power, Goodman points out, it may well repeal through a simple majority vote the major changes Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition seeks to enact. Or it may use the legislature’s expanded powers, say, to ram through laws that impair the religious liberty of the ultra-Orthodox. Either way, in a torn nation, constitutional counterrevolution amplifies division.

Conservatives make a compelling case that balance must be restored to the separation of powers in Israel. A prudent concern for the need to harmonize Israel’s free, democratic, and Jewish character counsels deliberation in the pursuit of necessary constitutional reform.

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Read more at RealClearPolitics

More about: Israel & Zionism, Israeli Judicial Reform