Rabbi Jonathan Sacks dies at 72
He loved to quote Jonathan Swift: "We have just enough religion to make us hate one another, but not enough to make us love one another."
Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, who served as the Chief Rabbi of the United Kingdom for more than 20 years, has died of cancer at age 72. Rabbi Sacks won the 2016 Templeton Prize - placing him in the company of Archbishop Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Lama - as someone who has made a profound spiritual contribution to the world.
When Tapestry asked Rabbi Sacks about an argument often offered by agnostics - that religion causes more violence than it prevents - he answered with a combination of warmth and steel:
"Forgive me. I respect atheists and secular humanists and I love them with an undying love, but let us not be that naive. The cause of violence is not religion. The cause of violence is the human heart."
In his feature interview with Mary Hynes, Rabbi Sacks traces the idea of religious tolerance and free speech through many philosophers from various faiths who have advocated for it throughout the centuries: starting with Muslim philosopher Averroes in the 12th-century, Jewish Rabbi Judah Loew ben Bezalel in the 16th-century, Christian John Milton in the 17th-century, through to secular humanist John Stuart Mill in the 19th-century.
Rabbi Sacks says if we do not learn from history we are doomed to repeat it.
"Let us not act as if what's happening in the 21st century has no precedent... The great use of history is that we can see what happened: we can see what led to the conflict, we can see what the conflict cost in terms of human lives, and we can see what ended the conflict."
Once we've deepened our understanding of religious violence, Rabbi Sacks urges everyone - regardless of religious belief - to take action.
"The truest faith is protest at the evil and the violence and the injustice in the world. And therefore to be religious is to right those wrongs."
Rabbi Sacks has a degree in philosophy from the University of Cambridge, an MA from Oxford, a PhD from King's College London, and he holds fifteen honorary degrees. He was knighted by the Queen in 2005 and is a member of the House of Lords.
Rabbi Sacks is a curious blend of the very old and the new. He says keeping the Sabbath used to mark freedom from the Pharaoh; now, observing a day of rest means freedom from your smart phone. On one of the other six days of the week, you can check out the Rabbi's podcast.