The Jewish Report Editorial

Showing us the light

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“The world we build tomorrow is born in the stories we tell our children today. Politics moves the pieces. Education changes the game.”
by PETA KROST MAUNDER | Nov 12, 2020

This is one of the many brilliant quotes from of one of modern-day Jewry’s most iconic leaders, Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, who passed away last Shabbos.

His death has rocked the Jewish world because he provided deep inspiration, food for thought, and a light unto all of us.

There are few leaders – spiritual or not – who offer such positivity, integrous wisdom, and inspire us genuinely to be the best we can be. Rabbi Sacks was such a person.

I could spend ages ruminating on quotes from his writing and speeches. I love the idea (above) that what we teach our children today is the bricks and mortar of their world tomorrow. And that it’s through their education that real change will happen, not through the tawdry game of politics. Truly inspiring!

I didn’t have the honour of meeting Rabbi Sacks, but from what I read, I felt I understood where he was coming from.

The themes that seem to pepper his work are unity; finding good in the world; nation building; shedding prejudices; listening to each other; healing our wounds; being inclusive of all; and finding peace in our world.

These perhaps seem like altruistic goals, but if only we could absorb them, allow them into our lives, and make them work for all of us, we would all be so much better off.

The truth is, it’s difficult always to see the good and be positive. I know that through some of this year, darkness seemed to prevail. However, there is generally a light at the end of the tunnel.

That light is invariably one we create ourselves, individually or as a group. We make things happen, and we choose whether we accept the doom and gloom or find the light.

People like Rabbi Sacks always looked towards the light at the end of the tunnel, and not at the things falling apart around us.

But, like many of us, he realised that we have reached a turning point in the world. The pandemic that has turned our lives around this year is about a virus, but it’s also about the need to change our lives. It’s about cleaning out that which doesn’t work for us, and finding new ways of doing things.

This year has been extraordinarily tough for many of us for different reasons, whether it’s about death, illness, financial distress, the breakdown of relationships, marriages, or even problems in educating our children. It has shone a bright light on problem areas in our lives, and given us choices.

Sometimes there don’t seem to be any options at all, but there always are and always were. It’s about how we choose to accept what the light has revealed for us. Do we deny it? Do we try to ignore it?

Do we fight it? Do we look for innovative ways to tackle it? Do we face it head on, and find the best possible way forward?

You can’t deny pain, illness, and financial distress as they don’t just go away. You can try and hide them, but they won’t be hidden for long. You can face them head on, and find the best way to keep going forward towards the light.

These are all choices.

Rabbi Sacks’ choice was to make the absolute best of what he had. Now, this iconic Jewish leader leaves behind one of the most beautiful legacies that we will tap into continuously for inspiration.

On the same weekend that Rabbi Sacks died, Joe Biden won the United States election to become the country’s 46th president-elect. It was a close battle between him and Donald Trump, and I do believe that many Americans who voted for Biden did so in order to unseat Trump not because they particularly love Biden.

However, his vice-president, Kamala Harris, inspires me no end. She spoke of Biden being “a healer, a uniter, a tested and steady hand”, which is what the world needs.

Biden in his victory speech pledged to unify and not divide, seeing the country as a whole and not one made up of Democrats and Republicans. He spoke about healing the nation.

Like the US, our world is in desperate need of healing. After what we have been through in 2020, we need all the help we can get to fix what has been broken and find solace and joy again after lockdown.

We all need to get together and draw on each other’s strength and vitality to heal ourselves. We can’t do it alone. We need to lean on each other, and be strong when others aren’t, so they can be there when we aren’t. That’s friendship, family, and community. That’s what we are about – not punishing each other, but being there for one another.

That’s what Biden means, and what Rabbi Sacks stood for.

As we stand on this precipice, we bring you stories of antisemitism, hatred, and people having to leave their religion because it doesn’t represent what they believe to be good.

It’s not to say that from this precipice we look only at the good ahead. No, it’s choice time. We can choose to go a number of ways.

Let’s use Rabbi Sacks as our true north on our compass, and build our integrity, strength of character, and ability to find the good in this world, and keep moving onwards and upwards. Let us, too, be a light unto the nations!

Shabbat Shalom!

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