Vayigash

Posted on December 10th, 2018

Genesis 44:18–47:27 


Rabbi Jonathan Sacks


The First Psychotherapist


The phrase “Jewish thinker” may mean two very different things. It may mean a thinker who just happens to be Jewish by birth or descent – a Jewish physicist, for example – or it may refer to someone who has contributed specifically to Jewish thought: like Judah Halevi or Maimonides.

The interesting question is: is there a third kind of Jewish thinker, one who contributes to the universe of knowledge, but does so in a recognisably Jewish way? The answer to this is never straightforward, yet we instinctively feel that there is such a thing. To give an analogy: there is often something recognisably Jewish about a certain kind of humour. Ruth Wisse has interesting things to say about it in her book, No Joke.[1] So does Peter Berger in his Redeeming Laughter.[2] Humour is universal, but it speaks in different accents in different cultures.

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Miketz - Rosh Chodesh Hanukkah

Posted on December 3rd, 2018

Genesis 41:1−44:17 

 

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks 


The Author of Our Lives

It was Joseph’s first real attempt to take his fate into his own hands, and it failed. Or so it seemed.

Consider the story so far, as set out in last week’s parsha. Almost everything that happens in Joseph’s life falls into two categories. The first are the things done to him. His father loves him more than his other sons. He gives him a richly embroidered cloak.

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Vayeshev

Posted on November 26th, 2018

Genesis 37:1–40:23


Rabbi Jonathan Sacks 


We live life looking forward but we understand it only looking back.

As we live from day to day, our life can seem like a meaningless sequence of random events, a series of accidents and happenstances that have no shape or inner logic. A traffic jam makes us late for an important meeting. A stray remark we make offends someone in a way we never intended. By a hair’s-breadth we fail to get the job we so sought. Life as we experience it can sometimes feel like Joseph Heller’s definition of history: “a trashbag of random coincidences blown open in a wind.”

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Vayishlach

Posted on November 19th, 2018
Genesis 32:4−36:43 
 
 
Rabbi Jonathan Sacks 


Be Thyself


I have argued in previous years of Covenant and Conversation that the episode in which the Jewish people acquired its name – when Jacob wrestled with an unnamed adversary at night and received the name Israel – is essential to an understanding of what it is to be a Jew. I argue here that it is equally critical to understanding what it is to lead.

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Vayeitzei

Posted on November 12th, 2018

Genesis 28:10−32:3 


Rabbi Jonathan Sacks 


Out of the Depths

What did Jacob add to the Jewish experience? What is it that we find in him that we do not find to the same measure in Abraham and Isaac? Why is it his name – Jacob/Israel – that we carry in our identity? How was it that all his children stayed within the faith? Is there something of him in our spiritual DNA? There are many answers. I explore one here, and another next week in Vayishlach.

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