About the Author

Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks

Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks zt”l was an international religious leader, philosopher, and respected moral voice. The author of over 35 books, he received multiple awards in recognition of his work including the 2016 Templeton Prize. He was the recipient of 18 honorary doctorates, and was knighted by Her Majesty The Queen in 2005 and made a Life Peer, taking his seat in the House of Lords in October 2009. Rabbi Sacks zt”l served as the Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth from 1991 to 2013. Rabbi Sacks zt”l was born on the 8th March 1948 and passed away on the 7th November 2020 (Shabbat Kodesh 20th MarCheshvan 5781).

These weekly teachings from Rabbi Sacks zt”l are part of the ‘Covenant & Conversation’ series on the weekly Torah reading. Read more essays from the series on www.rabbisacks.org.

Also available: The FAMILY EDITION of Covenant & Conversation, designed to enhance your parsha conversation with everyone from teenagers to great-great-grandparents. To read and print this family-friendly learning resource, for an inter-generational discussion around your Shabbat table on Rabbi Sacks’ ideas for the week, please click here.

Does Love Conquer All?*

Our parsha contains more laws than any other. Some of them have generated much study and debate,...

A Sage is Greater than a Prophet

In Shoftim, Moses speaks about the great institutions of Judaism: courts, judges, officers, Kings,...

The Good Society

The test of a society is not military, political, economic or demographic. It is moral and spiritual.

The Covenant and the Love

An interesting phrase appears at the end of last week’s parsha and at the beginning of this...

The Infinite Game

The moral life is an infinite game which cannot be reduced to only rules.


In the last month of his life, Moses gathered the people. He instructed them about the laws they...

My Teacher: In Memoriam

There are moments when Divine Providence touches you on the shoulder and makes you see a certain...

The Hidden Meaning of the Bilam Story

Many questions have rightly been asked about the story of Balak and Bilam and the would-be curses...

Moral v. Political Decisions

The coronavirus pandemic raised a series of deep moral and political issues. This week's Torah portion sheds some light.

Kohelet, Tolstoy and the Red Heifer

Death forces us to confront our deepest fears.

How Not to Argue

Korach and the cancel culture.

What Is Going On?

The story we tell affects the decisions we make. Get the story wrong and we can rob an entire generation of their future. Get it right, as did Joshua and Caleb, and we can achieve greatness.

Loneliness and Faith

I have long been intrigued by one passage in this week’s parsha. After a lengthy stay in the...

The Blessing of Love

I confess to a thrill every time I read these words: Tell Aaron and his sons, ‘This is how...

Egalitarian Society, Jewish-Style

The parsha of Bamidbar is generally read on the shabbat before Shavuot, z’man matan...

The Power of a Curse

The book of Vayikra draws to a close by outlining the blessings that will follow if the people are...

Radical Uncertainty

There is something very strange about the festival of Succot, of which our parsha is the primary...

Words That Heal

Fred Rogers and the power of words.

Rabbi Sacks on the Holocaust

Two thought provoking videos on faith after the Holocaust.


There is an order to the universe and we must respect it.

After the Plague: From I to We

The shared hell of WWII changed Britain for the better. Coronavirus will do the same.

Left- and Right-Brain Judaism

The institution of the Haftarah – reading a passage from the prophetic literature alongside...

The Prophetic View of Sacrifice

Sacrifices, the subject of this week’s parsha, were central to the religious life of...

Communities and Crowds

To turn a group of individuals into a covenantal nation, they must build something together.

The Power of Kol Nidrei

Kol Nidrei, the prayer said at the beginning of Yom Kippur, is an enigma wrapped in a mystery,...

Why Harry S. Truman Recognized the State of Israel

Like Eddie Jacobson, God is calling on each of us, saying there is something only we can do.

Dressing to Impress

There is a place for aesthetics and the visual in the life of the spirit.

We Will Do and We Will Hear

Two words we read towards the end of our parsha - naaseh ve-nishma, "We will do and we will...

The Universal and the Particular

The God of Israel is the God of all humankind, even though the religion of Israel is not the religion of all humankind.

Crossing the Sea

Our parsha begins with an apparently simple proposition: When Pharaoh let the people go, God did...

Guardians of the Earth: A Tu B'Shvat Video

Mankind has been given the mandate to use the earth, but not to destroy it.

The Story We Tell About Ourselves

Sometimes others know us better than we know ourselves. In the year 2000, a British Jewish...

The Weighing of the Heart

The Exodus story of how the supreme Power entered history to liberate the supremely powerless, is not just for Jews. It is the world’s greatest metanarrative of hope.

Faith in the Future

Some measure of the radicalism that is introduced into the world by the story of the Exodus can be...

Family, Faith and Freedom

If you want to understand what a book is about, look carefully at how it ends. Genesis ends with...

The Future of the Past

By allowing the present to reshape our understanding of the past, we redeem history, making it a positive force in our lives.

Joseph and the Risks of Power

Mikketz represents the most sudden and radical transformation in the Torah. Joseph, in a single...

Rabbi Sacks' 8 Short Thoughts for Hanukkah

Illuminate Hanukkah with these inspiring insights.

The Angel Who Didn't Know He Was An Angel

Two incredible stories that illustrate the impact you may never know you have.

No Longer Shall You Be Called Jacob

One fact about this week's parsha has long perplexed the commentators. After his wrestling match...

Laban the Aramean

The events narrated in this week's parsha - Jacob's flight to Laban, his stay there, and his...

Isaac and Esau

It's a haunting question. Why did Isaac love Esau? The verse says so explicitly: "Isaac, who...

To Have a Why

He who has a why in life can bear almost any how.

Negative Capability

I have written about the binding of Isaac many times in these studies, each time proposing an...

A Palace in Flames

Abraham was the first person in recorded history to protest the injustice of the world in the name of God, rather than accept it in the name of God.

The Light in the Ark

Discovering Torah, inside and out.

The Genesis of Love

In The Lonely Man of Faith, Rabbi Soloveitchik drew our attention to the fact that there are two...

End Without an Ending

What an extraordinary way to end a book: not just any book but the Book of books - with Moses...

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