Jonathan Sacks: The Relationship between the People and God

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Friends, I stand before you as a Jew, which means not just as an individual, but as a representative of my people. And as I prepared this lecture, within my soul were the tears of my ancestors. We may have forgotten this, but for a thousand years, between the First Crusade and the Holocaust, the word 'Christian' struck fear into Jewish hearts. Think only of the words the Jewish encounter with Christianity added to the vocabulary of human pain: blood libel, book burnings, disputations, forced conversions, inquisition, auto da fe, expulsion, ghetto and pogrom.

I could not stand here today in total openness, and not mention that book of Jewish tears.

And I have asked myself, what would our ancestors want of us today?

And the answer to that lies in the scene that brings the book of Genesis to a climax and a closure. You remember: after the death of Jacob, the brothers fear that Joseph will take revenge. After all, they had sold him into slavery in Egypt.

Instead, Joseph forgives -- but he does more than forgive. Listen carefully to his words:

You intended to harm me,
but God intended it for good,
to do what is now being done,
to save many lives.

Joseph does more than forgive. He says, out of bad has come good. Because of what you did to me, I have been able to save many lives. Which lives? Not just those of his brothers, but the lives of the Egyptians, the lives of strangers. I have been able to feed the hungry. I have been able to honour the covenant of fate -- and by honouring the covenant of fate between him and strangers, Joseph is able to mend the broken covenant of faith between him and his brothers.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalLambeth 2008* International News & CommentaryEngland / UK* Religion News & CommentaryInter-Faith RelationsOther FaithsJudaism* TheologyTheology: Scripture

6 Comments
Posted July 29, 2008 at 2:29 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]



1. Peter Carrell wrote:

It must have been an invidious task, Kendall, to know which bit to select for presentation. This is one of the greatest speeches of all time (IMHO).

July 29, 3:17 pm | [comment link]
2. Jill C. wrote:

Cherie Wetzel of Anglicans United really appreciated Sacks’ speech as well.

July 29, 4:48 pm | [comment link]
3. Br. Michael wrote:

Good sermon.

July 29, 5:07 pm | [comment link]
4. Pageantmaster [Katie bought Welby] wrote:

The Chief Rabbi is a blessing to us all.

July 29, 7:24 pm | [comment link]
5. Bill Matz wrote:

While I am an admirer of Rabbi Sacks, the remarks about Christian persecution of Jews omit the historical perspective that Jews originally (and vigorously) persecuted Christians. No excuse for the later reversal, but it is necessary for an historical understanding. The Christian persecutions did not arise in an historical vacuum, but they were vastly greater in scale and time.

July 30, 12:50 am | [comment link]
6. physician without health wrote:

This talk is erudite.  We must all pray for this man that God will send His Holy Spirit and draw Rabbi Sacks to Christ.

July 30, 1:33 am | [comment link]
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