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Archive for the ‘Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks’ tag

Using the Talmud as a Model for Interfaith Dialogue

A page of the Talmud

by David Meyer
from Ha’aretz

BRUSSELS – A few years ago, Rabbi Jonathan Sacks used an interesting metaphor to describe the interfaith reality of Europe’s pluralistic society. Living with multiculturalism, he argued, we must ask ourselves whether we intend to be together in the same shared house, or whether we are just guests in the same hotel.

The difference between the two images is striking. If we are indeed sharing a common home, even building it together, we need a common set of goals and frank give-and-take, lest our shared residence never get off the ground. Alternatively, if we are just guests who will pass one another occasionally in a hotel lobby, it will suffice if we can converse politely when we happen to meet.

As a European rabbi, I have made my choice. I am building the house. And the current multicultural nature of our society makes me want to find partners of other faiths with whom to share the effort.

But what sort of communal home are we aiming for? We each have identities and differences that we are just not willing to give up. So even though our common European house should indeed have solid foundations and a pleasant ground floor room for all to meet – it’s equally important that we have our own individual rooms one floor up, with doors we can safely leave unlocked. The challenge, then, is double: setting the foundations right so that we can customize our own rooms without endangering the building’s stability, and finding a way to share this vision in an exciting way with a wider audience.

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Religion, Morality and the Financial Industry: An Interview With Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks

by Paul Brandeis Raushenbush
from Huffington Post

Few religious leaders have such a universal appeal and global authority as Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks. Rabbi Sacks has been Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth since September 1991, was knighted by the Queen in 2005 and made a Life Peer, taking his seat in the House of Lords, in 2009. He has written 24 books, his most recent being “The Great Partnership: God, Science and the Search for Meaning,” which was published this year.

Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks is beginning a speaking tour in the United States. (See below for locations and dates). I had a chance to speak to Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks about his understanding of the role of religion in developing a sense of morality in our globalized world.

Paul Brandeis Raushenbush: What is the role of religion in developing a moral sense?

Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks: We have a natural moral sense. I do not want to suggest that you have to be religious to be moral. We have always had these two imperatives that take us in conflicting directions. There is the drive for survival and there is the drive for cooperation — the altruistic element.

Charles Darwin understood this, and we are beginning to pick up on this in evolutionary psychology and also in neuroscience. We pass our genes on as individuals but we survive in groups, and groups only survive on the basis of altruism. So we are caught in the perennial tension between the drive to good, and instinct to self-preservation that sees everyone as a means to our ends.

So we all have a moral sense, the question is, what are the settings or environments that strengthen that sense and allow us to combat some of the more destructive human instincts. Religion is always focused on that question. It’s not that we need to be religious to know what is good, but we need to be religious in order to be educated in the habits of the heart that lead people to be moral. And we know those habits have to be inculcated by constant practice, which we do in religion through prayer and ritual. They need to be cultivated in community, and today religions are the strongest, maybe the only really strong communities that we have left.

And so I think religions make people better able to act on the moral sense.

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