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About the Author

Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks

Lord Rabbi Sacks is the emeritus chief rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the British Commonwealth. He currently teaches at New York University, Yeshiva University and King’s College London.

On Leadership: Looking Up

On Leadership: Looking Up

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The Israelites had crossed the Red Sea. The impossible had happened. The mightiest army in the ancient world - the Egyptians with their horse-drawn ...


On Leadership: The Far Horizon

On Leadership: The Far Horizon

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To gain insight into the unique leadership lesson of this week's parsha, I often ask an audience to perform a thought-experiment. Imagine you are ...


On Leadership: Overcoming Setbacks

On Leadership: Overcoming Setbacks

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At first, Moses' mission seemed to be successful. He had feared that the people would not believe in him, but God had given him signs to perform, ...


On Leadership:  Surviving Failure

On Leadership: Surviving Failure

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Bereishit ends on a sublime note of reconciliation between Joseph and his brothers. His brothers were afraid that he had not really forgiven them ...


On Leadership: The Unexpected Leader

On Leadership: The Unexpected Leader

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I was once present when the great historian of Islam, Bernard Lewis, was asked to predict the course of events in the Middle East. He replied, ...


On Leadership: The Power of Dreams

On Leadership: The Power of Dreams

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In one of the greatest transformations in all literature, Joseph moves in one bound from prisoner to prime minister. What was it about Joseph - a ...


On Leadership: Be Thyself

On Leadership: Be Thyself

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I have argued in previous years of Covenant and Conversation that the episode in which the Jewish people acquired its name - when Jacob wrestled ...


On Leadership: Light in Dark Times

On Leadership: Light in Dark Times

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What is it that made Jacob - not Abraham or Isaac or Moses - the true father of the Jewish people? We are the "congregation of Jacob," ...


On Leadership: The Price of Silence

On Leadership: The Price of Silence

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The price we pay for a failure to communicate​.


On Leadership: Beginning the Journey

On Leadership: Beginning the Journey

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A while back, a British newspaper, The Times, interviewed a prominent member of the Jewish community - let's call him Lord X - on his 92nd birthday. ...


On Leadership: Answering the Call

On Leadership: Answering the Call

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Abraham stood for a faith that challenges the world instead of accepting it.


On Leadership: The Courage Not To Conform

On Leadership: The Courage Not To Conform

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To be a Jew is to be willing to challenge the prevailing consensus.


On Leadership: Righteousness Is Not Leadership

On Leadership: Righteousness Is Not Leadership

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The praise that Noah is accorded is unparalleled anywhere in Tanakh. He was, says the Torah, "a righteous man, perfect in his generations; Noah ...


On Leadership: Taking Responsibility

On Leadership: Taking Responsibility

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If leadership is the solution, what is the problem? On this, the Torah could not be more specific. It is a failure of responsibility. The early ...


Let My Teaching Fall Like Rain

Let My Teaching Fall Like Rain

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In the glorious song with which Moses addresses the congregation, he invites the people to think of the Torah - their covenant with God - as if it ...


The Torah as God's Song

The Torah as God's Song

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At the end of his life, having given the Israelites at God's behest 612 commands, Moses is instructed to give them the last; command 613: Now ...


A Sense of History

A Sense of History

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Ki Tavo begins with the ceremony of bringing first fruits to the Temple. The Mishnah (Bikkurim 3) gives a detailed account of what happened: Those ...


The Parameters of Justice

The Parameters of Justice

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In Deuteronomy 24, we encounter for the first time the explicit statement of a law of far-reaching significance: "Parents shall not be put to ...


Testing Prophecy

Testing Prophecy

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In his enumeration of the various leadership roles within the nation that would take shape after his death, Moses mentions not only the priest/judge ...


Judaism's Social Vision

Judaism's Social Vision

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If you seek to understand Judaism's social vision, look at its anti-poverty legislation: "If there is a poor man among your brothers in any ...


Greatness and Humility

Greatness and Humility

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A sequence of verses in this week's sedra gave rise to a beautiful Talmudic passage - one that has found a place in the siddur. It is among the ...


Tzedek: Justice and Compassion

Tzedek: Justice and Compassion

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Shakespeare failed to realize that "justice" and "mercy" are indeed bonded together.


The Danger of Suspicion

The Danger of Suspicion

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It is a fascinating story and from it comes one of the great principles of Judaism. Two of the tribes, Reuben and Gad, see that the land east of the ...


On Parents and Teachers

On Parents and Teachers

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Just beneath the surface of today's this week's parshah is an exceptionally poignant story. It occurs in the context of Moses' prayer that God ...


The Hardest Word to Hear

The Hardest Word to Hear

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The story of Bilaam, the pagan prophet, begins with a bewildering set of non-sequiturs - a sequence of events that seems to have no logic. First, ...


Why Was Moses Not Destined To Enter The Land?

Why Was Moses Not Destined To Enter The Land?

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It is one of the most perplexing, even disturbing, passages in the Torah. Moses the faithful shepherd, who has led the Israelites for forty years, ...


Power Versus Influence

Power Versus Influence

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The Korach rebellion was an unholy alliance of individuals and groups unhappy with Moses' leadership. There was Korach himself, a member of the ...


Beyond the Fringe

Beyond the Fringe

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Our Torah portion ends with one of the great commands of Judaism - tsitsit, the fringes we wear on the corner of our garments as a perennial ...


Moses' Challenge

Moses' Challenge

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It was the worst crisis in Moses' life. Incited by the 'mixed multitude', the Israelites complain about the food: 'If only we had meat to eat. We ...


What Counts

What Counts

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This week's Torah portion begins with a continuation of the census begun in last week's - the act that gives the entire book its English name: the ...


Love as Law, Law as Love

Love as Law, Law as Love

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On the face of it the connections between the Torah portion and haftarah of Bamidbar are slender. The first has to do with demography. Bemidbar ...


The Chronological Imagination

The Chronological Imagination

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I want, in this study, to look at one of Judaism's most distinctive and least understood characteristics - the chronological imagination. The ...


Faith As A Journey

Faith As A Journey

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In its account of the festivals of the Jewish year, this week's Torah portion contains the following statement: You shall dwell in thatched huts ...


Of Love and Hate

Of Love and Hate

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At the center of the Torah is Vayikra. At the center of Vayikra is the "holiness code" (chapter 19) with its momentous call: "You ...


Fire - Holy and Unholy

Fire - Holy and Unholy

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The shock is immense. For several weeks and many chapters - the longest prelude in the Torah - we have read of the preparations for the moment at ...


Violence and the Sacred

Violence and the Sacred

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Judaism is less a philosophical system than a field of tensions - between universalism and particularism, for example, or exile and redemption, ...


Between Destiny and Chance

Between Destiny and Chance

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The third book of the Torah is known in English as "Leviticus", a word deriving from Greek and Latin, meaning, "pertaining to the ...


Three Types of Community

Three Types of Community

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A long drama had taken place. Moses had led the people from slavery to the beginning of the road to freedom. The people themselves had witnessed God ...


Two Types of Religious Encounter

Two Types of Religious Encounter

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Framing the epic events of this week's Torah portion are two objects - the two sets of tablets, the first given before, the second after, the sin of ...


Prophet and Priest

Prophet and Priest

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The portion of Tetsaveh, as commentators have noted, has one unusual feature: it is the only portion from the beginning of Shemot to the end of ...


In the Details

In the Details

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God is in the details.


Two Narratives of Creation

Two Narratives of Creation

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The Torah describes two acts of creation: God's creation of the universe, and the Israelites' creation of the mikdash or mishkan, the sanctuary that ...


The Politics of Revelation

The Politics of Revelation

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The revelation at Mount Sinai - the central episode not only of the parshah of Yitro, but of Judaism as a whole - was unique in the religious ...


To Be a Leader of the Jewish People

To Be a Leader of the Jewish People

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That day, God saved Israel from the hands of the Egyptians ... The Israelites saw the great power God had displayed against the Egyptians, and the ...


Freedom's Defence

Freedom's Defence

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And you shall explain to your child on that day, 'It is because of what the Lord did for me when I went free from Egypt'. It was the moment for ...


Of Lice and Men

Of Lice and Men

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Throughout all Egypt the dust turned into lice. But when the magicians tried to produce lice by their secret arts, they could not. The lice attacked ...


Leadership and the People

Leadership and the People

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The sedra of Shemot, in a series of finely etched vignettes, paints a portrait of the life of Moses, culminating in the moment at which God appears ...


Altruism and Religion

Altruism and Religion

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Religion is the best antidote to the individualism of the consumer age.


Generations Forget and Remember

Generations Forget and Remember

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Lessons of assimilation, acculturation, and exile.


Choice and Change

Choice and Change

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The sequence from Bereishit 37 to 50 is the longest unbroken narrative in the Torah, and there can be no doubt who its hero is: Joseph. The story ...