With the recent publication of volume five of his commentary on the Torah, Rabbi Sir Jonathan Sacks, the former chief rabbi of the United Kingdom, has completed a landmark work.
“I called this series ‘Covenant & Conversation’ because this, for me, is the essence of what Torah learning is — throughout the ages, and for us, now,” says Rabbi Sacks. “The text of Torah is our covenant with G-d, our written constitution as a nation under his sovereignty.
“The interpretation of this text has been the subject of an ongoing conversation that began at Sinai thirty-three centuries ago and has not ceased since. Every age has added its commentaries, and so must ours. I hope by reading this series, people are inspired to participate in that conversation, because that is a major part of what it is to be a Jew.”
In his introduction to this latest volume, Rabbi Sacks writes: “With the Book of Deuteronomy, the entire biblical project becomes lucid and reaches its culmination. Deuteronomy is the last act of the Jewish people’s drama before becoming a nation in its own land, and it forms the context of all that follows. [It] is in essence a programme for the creation of a moral society in which righteousness is the responsibility of all. The good society was to be, within the limits of the world as it was thirty three centuries ago, an inclusive if not an entirely egalitarian one. Time and again we are told that social joy must embrace the widow, the orphan, the stranger, and the Levite, people without independent status or means. It is to be one nation under G-d.”
Rabbi Sacks is the author of over 30 books, among them the Sacks prayer book series published by Koren Publishers. This series, with full translation and an extensive commentary, also includes a learned and detailed introduction that gives the Jewish worshiper a most comprehensive traditional siddur series for use on all religious occasions, year around.
Hopefully, in the near future, this series will be redesigned as a full service set of Chumashim for use both at home and in synagogues which will include the full texts in Hebrew, Aramaic and English, together with the Sacks translations, essays and commentaries.
I conclude this week’s column with these words by former British Prime Minister Tony Blair:
“Jonathan Sacks is truly a towering figure … ranging with extraordinary ease across different fields, making a contribution that is uniquely and distinctively his own. He relates the insights of religion to the modern world and retells the story of faith in a compelling way, and that is a rare and remarkable achievement.”
Rabbi Sacks’ weekly parsha column appears regularly in the Shabbat Star section of The Jewish Star.