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The Great Partnership By Rabbi Jonathan Sacks


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I am neither Jewish nor anti-Semitic, but in this past year I have read three books, written by current Jewish Rabbis, that were quite knowledgeable and just made a lot of sense. Here is a review of the latest one that I have read. I got this from our public library and I have not checked with Amazon.com to see if is available as a Kindle edition. I apologize for the length of this review, but I did not know what to leave out. I could have made it three times as long.

 

Hal

 

 

Book Review: “The Great Partnership” (Science, Religion and the Search for Meaning)

By: Rabbi Jonathan Sacks (Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of Great Britain and the Commonwealth since 1991)

 

Pg. 74: Faith is not a form of ‘knowing’ in the sense in which that word is used in science and philosophy. It is, in the Bible, a mode of listening. The supreme expression of Jewish faith, usually translated as “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one” (Deut. 6:4), really means “Listen, O Israel”. Listening is an existential act of encounter, a way of hearing the person beneath the words, the music beneath the noise. Freud, who disliked religion and abandoned his Judaism, was nonetheless Jewish enough to invent, in psychoanalysis, the ‘listening cure’: listening as the healing of the soul.

 

Pg. 164: The faith of Abraham makes two monumental claims: first, that the relationship between God and humanity is a matter of love, not power; second, that you can build a society on the basis of love, love of neighbor and stranger, that leads us to care for their welfare as if it were our own. These remain, even now, astonishing ideas, and one would say they were wildly utopian were it not for the fact that the faith of Abraham has lasted longer than any other known civilization. Its adherents may have allen short time and again, but they never quite lost their sense that there was something moving and humane about this ideal and the demand it makes of us.

 

Pg. 190: Ecclesiastes, a man of untold wealth and sophistication, like Tolstoy, eventually finds meaning in simple
things, love and work, eating and drinking, doing good to others and knowing that there is a time for all things: to be born and to die, to weep and to laugh, to acknowledge the eternity of God and to accept the limits of a human
life.

 

Pg. 246: My own view is that if God did not want us to seek justice in this world, why did he create it and why did he pronounce it good? If he did not believe that physical existence s a blessing, why are we here? As
punishment? For what crime? Berdyaev wrote in 1923. Would he still have maintained his thesis once the full extent of the Final Solution had become clear: that suffering is to be accepted as “God’s inscrutable will and design”? There are such views in Judaism as well as Christianity, but I, for one, prefer the theology of protest. We must accept only that which we cannot change.

 

Pg. 290: Abrahamic monotheism speaks on behalf of the poor, the weak, the enslaved. It tells a story about the power of human freedom, lifted by its encounter with the ultimate source of freedom, to create structures of human dignity. It bodies forth a vision of a more gracious world. It tells us that no one is written off, no one condemned to be a failure. It tells the rich and powerful that they have responsibilities to those who lack all that makes life bearable. It invites us to be part of a gentle revolution, telling us that influence is greater than power, that we must protect the most vulnerable in society, that we must be willing to make sacrifices to that end and, most daringly of all, that love is stronger than death. It sets love at the epicenter of the world: love of God, love of the neighbor, love of the stranger. If natural selection tells us anything, it is that this faith, having existed for longer than any other, creates in its followers an astonishing ability to survive.

 

Pg. 295: We are in a desecularising and destabilizing age. That brings fear, and few things are worse than the politics of fear. It creates a sense of victimhood and a willingness to demonise those with and from whom we
differ. One of its symptoms is the new secularism, so much angrier and intolerant than the old. Another is the new religiosity that claims to be, but is not, a continuation of the old. The best thing to do in such circumstances is for moderates of all sides to seek and find common ground.

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