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In Memory of Rabbi Sacks Z”L

Moshe Unger - Columnist
Posted 1/28/21

On November 7 of the past year, 2020, the world lost a great man, Rabbi Jonathan Sacks. I've quoted him a lot here and he's been, and still is, a source of inspiration for me and many many …

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In Memory of Rabbi Sacks Z”L

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On November 7 of the past year, 2020, the world lost a great man, Rabbi Jonathan Sacks. I've quoted him a lot here and he's been, and still is, a source of inspiration for me and many many others.

He was the Chief Rabbi of England for many years, and represented Orthodox Judaism with great eloquence and profundity. He was appointed a seat in the House of Lords. It was a position without political duties.

Although he was Orthodox, I'm not part of his school of tradition and there are important differences of opinion between the schools. However, this does not diminish my respect and admiration at his great accomplishments and, more importantly, the deep and rich soul that he accomplished to become. I learned a lot from him and continue to be inspired by his books and quotes.

Rabbi Sacks was a profound thinker and was able to communicate his thoughts and feelings through the choicest of words. My writing here is greatly influenced by him.

I want to share some stories and teachings about him in this article and some future articles.

Rabbi Sacks was once at a conference and a principal of a school approached him. The school was for the general public, not Jewish, and was a top notch school in England. She related to Rabbi Sacks that the school started to see serious behavioral problems among the students, including a major drug problem. The school tried many solutions to no avail. She related that the staff were in great despair, with no idea what to do.

Rabbi Sacks answered her with one word, “celebrate”. The school should celebrate student accomplishments in all areas, academic, behavior, and anything else. This doesn't mean awards and competition, it means that everyone together celebrates these accomplishments. This saved the school.

A friend told me that he recently embarked on a daily study schedule of an hour a day. Every time he finished a chapter in the Talmud he would buy some goodies for his wife and children. This transformed his family.

They looked forward for his achievements and they celebrated his study and accomplishments. Of course, since then he couldn't miss a night. If he did, his little daughter would beg him, “Totty, you have to go learn so that you finish the next chapter!”

Celebration stirs the deepest parts of our souls. When we celebrate good things, we become good people and will continue to do even more good. We can and should celebrate little accomplishments too, especially when we do something that is not easy.

Take that little feeling of joy that is inside when we do something good and bring it out in celebration. A person can make a little jig when no one sees or dance with a family member to celebrate an accomplishment.

It's exciting to do a good thing, whatever it may be, and celebrating it will permeate one's life and family with life and joy.

This is just one small example of Rabbi Sacks being able to delve into the depths of Jewish tradition and Jewish wisdom and make it applicable to our world today.

May it be the Will of the Almighty that his works continue to inspire the masses, including myself, and his soul should ascend higher and higher.

And to quote Rabbi Sacks, “You achieve immortality not by building pyramids or statues, but by engraving your values on the hearts of your children, and they on theirs, so that our ancestors live on in us and we in our children, and so on until the end of time.”

I'd add that this includes also students and even just people in the street. The light that we are fortunate to be able to spread, keeps on generating forever.

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