Rabbis as Political Leaders

The first part of the Hebrew bible showcases leaders who exhibit a full range of leadership qualities and attributes. The first monotheist, Abraham, was a religious leader who spoke with God, a military leader who fought battles, and a skilled negotiator who struck treaties with foreign kings. In later books of Old Testament, as the Jews took kings in Israel, the word of God was often imparted by a prophet who kept the ruler in line with God’s desires in a division of labor.

As Jews lost their holy land, the spiritual leaders assumed greater responsibilities to lead the community. Acting as administrators, the rabbis often made poor decisions, such as Rabbi Akiva who backed the Bar Kochba revolt against the Romans in 132CE which almost led to the complete destruction of the Jewish people. Thousands of years later, many prominent rabbis in Europe did not lead their communities to flee to either the holy land or the United States and they perished in the Holocaust. Even today, many brilliant rabbis are not enforcing health protocols amid the pandemic, leading to hundreds of deaths.

It is therefore important to take note and appreciate a rabbi who was able to lead on a local, national and international level both on a spiritual and political basis. Such was Lord Jonathan Sachs who passed away on November 7, 2020.

Lord Sachs was not only the rabbi of the largest synagogue in England, but served as the Chief Rabbi of England who had a seat in the House of Lords. He wrote 25 books, was a professor at several universities and spoke around the world. He stood before English Parliament to clearly denounce anti-Semitism in a speech heard around the world. His message for compassion, love of every Jew, contributing to society, love of God, love of learning, commitment to Israel and building interfaith bonds made him a favorite among Jews and non-Jews around the world.

Lord Jonathan Sachs

God created the word through division, separating light and darkness, water and land, and man and woman. Over history, humanity saw similar benefits and instituted mechanisms to separate powers such as military, political, judicial and religious. So it is a rare situation for a leader to earn the respect of so many beyond an anointed title. Such was Lord Jonathan Sachs, an Orthodox rabbi who not only led the spiritual lives of the Jews of England but inspired people of all faiths around the world. May his memory be a blessing.


Related First One Through articles:

Kohelet, An Ode to Abel

The Hidden Side of the Moon

The Jewish Holy Land

Chanukah and Fighting on Sabbath

The Nation of Israel Prevails

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