Published in HaMizrachi Magazine, (Vol. 4, No. 6, Cheshvan 5782, October 26, 2021). Print-friendly copy
To mark the first yahrzeit of Rabbi Jonathan Sacks z”l, HaMizrachi magazine asked five people around the Jewish world, including me, to pen short personals reflection or memories relating to Rabbi Sacks. I wrote about his Zionism, which some people wrongly questioned. Read on below.
When he retired in 2013 from the post of British Chief Rabbi, people began asking whether Rabbi Sacks was going to make Aliyah. In fact, there were questions raised about the degree of his Zionist commitment, since the great classics of Western literature, philosophy, and science seemed to loom larger in his oeuvre than Zionism.
This was unfair. Rabbi Sacks’ religious excitement about the return of sovereignty to the Jewish people in Zion was palpable in many of his written works. Furthermore, it was clear to me why Rabbi Sacks nevertheless decided not to move to Israel. The haredi-influenced Israeli Rabbinate would brook no understanding of his broad intellectual horizons and liberal weltanschauung.
Rabbi Sacks’ religious excitement about the return of sovereignty to the Jewish people in Zion was palpable in many of his written works. But it is clear to me that Rabbi Sacks decided not to move to Israel because the haredi-influenced Israeli Rabbinate would brook no understanding of his broad intellectual horizons and liberal weltanschauung.
I remember the day all the doubters were put to rest; the day that Rabbi Sacks received the Guardian of Zion award from Bar-Ilan University’s Ingeborg Rennert Center for Jerusalem Studies, in June 2014. His mesmerizing address, about “three epiphanies” he experienced in Jerusalem, was a Zionist masterpiece!
Rabbi Sacks concluded his remarks thus: “We have had the privilege to be born in a generation that has seen Jerusalem reunited and rebuilt. We have seen the Jewish people come home. Now God is calling on us all to be ‘Guardians of Zion.’ We must all stand up for the one home our people has ever known and the one city our people has loved more than any other.”
“We are all shagrirey Medinat Yisrael (ambassadors for the State of Israel) and we must all make Israel’s case in a world that sometimes fails to see the beauty we know is here.”
The full special edition of HaMizrachi Magazine focused on Rabbi Sacks z”l can be read at https://mizrachi.org/hamizrachi/