Chayei Sarah


Last Sunday morning, I had the honour to represent Chief Rabbi Mirvis at the Cenotaph. Before we filed out to stand behind the balustrade, the representatives of the leading faiths in this country were all standing in a socially-distanced group in the quadrangle of the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office building. One after another, they came up to me to express their shock and loss at the passing of Rabbi Lord Sacks and the impact he had made on their lives. It was, in effect, a paraphrase of the verse in this week’s parsha (cited by the Chief Rabbi Mirvis in his hesped) where the Bnei Chet acclaim Abraham as: “you are a Prince of G-d in our midst.”

If non-Jewish faith leaders saw Rabbi Lord Sacks as an inspiration, how much more were we, the members of the Jewish community, immensely proud of him! And for us, in St John’s Wood, we were privileged to know him at close hand, together with Lady Elaine and his family.

In the hesped I gave at his funeral, I mentioned that he prided himself on giving sweets to children and that is what he wanted to be remembered by. He wanted all of us to experience the message of Torah as sweet.

My son, Rabbi Yisroel, reminded me that he received both real and metaphorical sweets from the Chief Rabbi.

On one occasion, Yisroel was the Baal Kore and I was in my usual place on the bima, standing next to him. We called the Chief Rabbi Sacks up for shelishi, the third Aliya. Yisroel had not known the leining so well that week and I was helping him, saying a phrase ahead quietly which Yisroel was able to repeat when he leined. He felt embarrassed that his leining for the Chief Rabbi was not up the standard it ought to have been. Yet, when Rabbi Sacks stood next to us, after his Aliya, instead of gently chiding Yisroel that perhaps he would make a better job of it next time, he said: “Ah! His father’s voice, only louder!” That is the Chief Rabbi, giving sweets!

I invite all of you to reflect on the sweets you received from Chief Rabbi Sacks, and may we all be inspired to pass on those messages of sweetness to others.