31 minutes | Nov 9, 2020

The Philosophical Legacy of Jonathan Sacks

TRADITION joins with the Jewish world, and with lovers of wisdom everywhere, in mourning the untimely loss of Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, who passed away on Shabbat. Rabbi Sacks served as the Chief Rabbi of United Hebrew Congregations of the British Commonwealth from 1991 to 2013, and was made a Life Peer in House of Lords in 2009. For many worldwide, his influence was felt through his dozens of books, countless essays, as well as his translations and commentaries on the Hebrew Bible and prayer-books, alongside his public speaking and presence on the world stage. Rabbi Sacks spent a distinguished life and career as a profoundly eloquent teacher and spokesman for Torah values within the Jewish community and throughout the world. R. Sacks served as a member of TRADITION’s editorial board, and, in fact, his very first scholarly essay, titled “Alienation and Faith,” was published in our pages in 1973. Written as a 25 year-old, it was a response – and respectful critique – of Rabbi Soloveitchik’s “The Lonely Man of Faith,” which we had published only eight years earlier. Re-reading the essay now we can identify themes and concerns which would occupy him as his mind matured and his eloquence flourished over the next half-century. To help us absorb the shock of his loss, and begin to assess R. Sacks’ legacy, TRADITION’s editor, Jeffrey Saks, spoke with Daniel Rynhold, professor of Jewish philosophy and Dean at the Bernard Revel Graduate School of Jewish Studies at Yeshiva University. Together, they surveyed R. Sacks’ interests and achievements as a thinker in his native Britain and worldwide. Rynhold outlines how R. Sacks functioned as both a particularistic Jewish writer and a universalistic member of the western philosophical tradition; they discuss his role and impact as a public intellectual; and consider how his legacy will impact generations to come. Rynhold, a London native, enjoyed a personal relationship with R. Sacks, and shares memories of the great man’s impact on himself – personally, professionally, and spiritually.
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