To Heal a Frac­tured World: The Ethics of Responsibility

  • Review
By – October 17, 2011
Rab­bi Jonathan Sacks has cre­at­ed a mas­ter­ful work that defines our very exis­tence as human beings as an expres­sion of a Divine plan, call­ing each of us indi­vid­u­al­ly — and human­i­ty col­lec­tive­ly — into a sacred part­ner­ship with a clear and spe­cif­ic mis­sion. We can be good only by doing good, and through our actions we demon­strate our God-like qual­i­ties and abil­i­ties to make this a more moral and eth­i­cal world for all its inhab­i­tants. Sacks, Chief Rab­bi of the Unit­ed Hebrew Con­gre­ga­tions of Great Britain and the Com­mon­wealth, weaves a tapes­try from a wide range of tra­di­tion­al Jew­ish sources, inter­spersed with lit­er­ary, psy­cho­log­i­cal and spir­i­tu­al ref­er­ences. Note­wor­thy also are his won­der­ful and mov­ing sto­ries of ordi­nary peo­ple who act­ed in extra­or­di­nary ways with amaz­ing and often far-reach­ing impli­ca­tions. Tack­ling issues of faith, tzedakah ver­sus chesed, kind­ness to strangers, ways in which we can sanc­ti­fy God’s name, or the very ori­gins of the con­cept of tikkun olam, Sacks is always clear, cogent and insight­ful. He has a con­cep­tu­al ele­gance in his pre­sen­ta­tion of ideas— whether cit­ing a Tal­mu­dic inter­pre­ta­tion, a Hasidic tale or offer­ing his own insights— which at times I found to be breath­tak­ing. Rab­bi Sacks has cre­at­ed a small gem, which bears read­ing and reread­ing by all; an impor­tant and com­pelling gift” to his peo­ple that is well-suit­ed for Jews of all denom­i­na­tions, who may well be inspired to do good as a result of this book. But Sacks’ mes­sage is not a parochial one lim­it­ed to Jews. Any­one who rec­og­nizes that there is a Supreme Oth­er in this world and that all of us at some point are an oth­er in need of heal­ing, will find read­ing this won­der­ful book a trans­for­ma­tive and life-affirm­ing experience.
William Liss-Levin­son is vice pres­i­dent, chief strat­e­gy & oper­a­tions offi­cer of Cas­tle Con­nol­ly Med­ical Ltd., a con­sumer health research, infor­ma­tion, and pub­lish­ing com­pa­ny. He holds a Ph.D. in edu­ca­tion and is a mem­ber of the board of direc­tors of the Jew­ish Book Council.

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