Sunday, November 6, 2011

My (not very) public apology to Rabbi Dr Jonathan Sacks

First off, let me be clear - I know that Rabbi Sacks does not need my apology. He doesn't know who I am. We have actually met (a few times), but he has met probably a million people. There is no reason for him to know who I am, and certainly none for him to care about what I think of him. My apology therefore is only half for him - it is more for me. It is a good exercise in humility to admit when one is wrong and to say sorry. This may not be the season, I might have missed Elul and the days of repentance - but you know what - Teshuva's a journey, one we are always on (ok, I am stopping with that Drasha now, I promise, I really have done it to death).

So yes - I want to apologise to Rabbi Dr Sacks. I just read a very little booklet he put out for Yom Kippur (Letters to the Next Generation 2). Not one of his epic tomes, no masterpiece of theology - a simple booklet, which you could probably polish off in your average Yom Kippur Mussaf service if you got bored and lost track of the service. I imagine that's the point. The beauty of this little book is that Sacks manages to avoid intra-Jewish politics, and is talking solely to a Jewish audience so isn't trying to suck up to any pc liberals. And yet in his own innately sensitive way, he is defending the Jewish tradition from the critiques of post-modernity, and he does it immensely well. He shows his true genius. He is in fact a great darshan, a skilled writer, a teacher, a rabbi. Chief among British rabbis, by this evidence. So I am sorry for the harsh criticism I have doled out your way in the past. I now realise that you really are a good yid. You are simply a lousy politician. And unfortunately for you - while you wanted to lead Jewishly as a politician, you have been forced to lead the Jews politically. One of the great einstein quotes flowing around the net recently is his classic, about everyone being a genius: “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”
So Rabbi Sacks - as a rabbi, it turns out you are a genius. And you deserve to be recognised as such, of course, if you keep trying to climb trees, you won't get enough air to your gills....
So, while I may still have no/little respect for the concept of a chief rabbinate, I would love to say thanks to the chief rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth for teaching me a valuable lesson.

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