Next Shabbat, 20th Marcheshvan, 4th November, is the third yahrzeit of Rabbi Lord Sacks, zichrono livracha. In tribute to his memory, you are invited to join me together with Rabbi Dr Raphi Zarum, the Dean of the London School of Jewish Studies, as we explore the inner world of Rabbi Sacks – how he taught and how he thought. This will take place next Wednesday evening at St Johns Wood shul at 8.00 pm.
How we miss Jonathan Sacks at this particular time! We crave his words of comfort and inspiration. There is much to draw from as we look into his speeches and writings. I particularly recommend his address to AIPAC in 2013, and his speech at the rally in Trafalgar Square in 2009.
In his book, To Heal a Fractured World (p.145), Rabbi Sacks explains G-d’s call to Abraham at the beginning of this week’s parasha. Lech Lecha – Go for yourself – this is a call to personal responsibility. Unlike Adam and Eve who tried to shirk personal responsibility for their actions, Abraham embraces the challenge to cast off the influences of his home and environment.
Unlike Cain, who evaded moral responsibility for what he did to Abel, we see Abraham exercised moral responsibility. He entered into battle to rescue his nephew, Lot, who has been taken captive. And unlike Noah, who could only save himself and his family, Abraham scales the heights of collective responsibility. In next week’s parasha, he prays for the inhabitants of Sodom, even though he knows that for the most part they are wicked.
These are challenging times to be a Jew in this country. Antisemitic attacks have risen. Yes, there have been robust statements of support from the King and the Prime Minister and other leading figures, yet the coverage of the BBC and many parts of social media is deeply troubling. But however uncomfortable our circumstances may be, they pale into insignificance when we consider what our brothers and sisters in Israel are going through.
Like Abraham, it is our turn to rise to our responsibilities. We must redouble our prayers for Israel and proclaim our pride in Israel. We must increase our financial support and our spiritual support through our mitzvot and Torah study. We must strengthen one another and stand four-square behind Israel in its time of crisis.
Oseh Shalom Bimormav, Hu Ya’aseh Shalom Alenu Ve’al Kol Yisrael Ve’Imru Amen!