Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Chief Rabbi Sacks attacks Chareidim for their isolation from world

Times of Israel  Retiring British Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks has launched a blistering attack on ultra-Orthodox Judaism, which “segregates itself from the world and from its fellow Jews.” Speaking at his own retirement dinner Monday night, Sacks drew an equivalence between assimilated Jews “who embrace the world and reject Judaism, and those who embrace Judaism and reject the world.”  

That the center is shrinking is “worse than dangerous,” said Sacks. “It is an abdication of the role of Jews and Judaism in the world. We are here to engage with the world, to be true to our faith and a blessing to others regardless of their faith.”

During his 22-year tenure, which will come to a close on September 1, Sacks was often accused of deferring too much to Haredi rabbis – including amending the text of his book, “The Dignity of Difference,” in response to criticism by ultra-Orthodox leaders – leading some in the audience to speculate that he will take a harder line post-retirement.

Monday night, the last in a series of communal events marking his departure, highlighted his position as a leading religious voice in Britain today. [...]

Although the Chief Rabbi has not yet indicated what formal position he is likely to accept after September, he seemed to stake out a strong role for himself promoting a centrist Orthodoxy, pledging to work to “inspire a new generation of leaders for the Jewish world, rabbinical, educational and lay, who will have the courage to face the world and all its challenges without fear, will have the responsibility to lead and the spirit to be a source of light in a sometimes dark and difficult world.

“I want to inspire young Jews throughout the world to believe in and live a Judaism that is tolerant, inclusive, embracing, non-judgmental; that is intellectually open and ethically uplifting; that is neither defensive nor arrogant, but that lives the life of faith in such a way as to enhance the life of others within and beyond the Jewish community.”

He expanded on the vision in a new pamphlet, “A Judaism Engaged with the World,” which was personally signed and handed to every guest, and is available for free download.


  1. a parting shot at the far right - which kept him quiet for 22 years..

  2. Nothing in the article seemed to rise to the level of a "blistering attack".

    1. That's because he's British. It's understated!

    2. Actually, I noticed the article has been edited. It no longer contains the word "blistering". Nothing he said is new or controversial.

  3. What does he mean by a Judaism which is "non-judgmental"? Doesn't the Torah require us to constantly be making value judgments?

  4. Everything he said is true and ringing indictment of Chardei life of today.

  5. The Times of Israel lies as usual. Their headline is a lie. The Chief Rabbi said no such thing. He never referenced the Chareidim, only the decline of Modern Orthodoxy.

    1. the headline in the times of israel is different. this headline it daas torah's own words. go look up the original sources it's good practice.

    2. Yes it is my heading based on the opening paragraph of the story which has since been modified and the phrase launched a blistering attack on ultra-Orthodox Judaism, which “segregates itself from the world and from its fellow Jews.” has been changed to remove the word "blistering". My heading accurately reflects the content of the article.

      from page 14 of his pamphlet. Segregation from the world is how he describes the chareidi way of life.

      "Assimilation and segregation may work for individuals,
      even large numbers of them, but they cannot be the way for
      the Jewish people as a whole. Not only are they dangerous:
      they are a failure of nerve in the Judaic project. Can it
      really be that Judaism has nothing to contribute to society
      and to the world? Can it be that when Jews engage with
      the world they have to hide their identity, acting as if they
      were twenty-first century equivalents of the marranos of
      Spain, Jews in secret but not in public? Are Jewish faith and
      practice so fragile that they can only be sustained by being
      screened from all contact with other cultures?"

    3. All excellent questions he asks??????

  6. R. Sacks published some apikorsus a few years ago in his book that he was forced to retract.

  7. Can we define chareidi please? For some people it means a Yerushalmi in Meah Shearim. There are tens of thousands of working men and professionals in the west who also are called chareidi and interact with the world. Does he mean them too? That's why these things never make any sense - what are the parameters of chareidi?

  8. This is a rabbi who broke halacha and attended a full-fledged Christian Church service by Prince William's wedding.

    1. Ben Torah - Rav Sacks only broke Halacha if you believe that asking the Beit Din what to do and following its directives is breaking Halacha. Do some research before being motzi shem ra.

    2. No Beit Din ever ruled it permissible to attend a Christian Church services in the pew, as Sacks did.

    3. I just checked my source, and indeed it was permissible. (My source himself held a rabbinic position in the United Kingdom, and has firsthand knowledge of the situation.) Do you have some insider knowledge that "no Beit Din" ever ruled it permissible? That's a very big statement.

    4. Please tell us what you source relies on

      See the following excellent summary


    5. Actually, the previous Chief Rabbi of the British Empire - R' Lord Immanuel Jacobovitz also went to church for certain state occasions. His justification was that it was allowed mipnei darchei shalom - so as not to cause resentment with the Malchus here.
      R' Sacks is presumably relying on the same principle. Incidentally, when the state funeral for Princess Diana to place on Shabbat, Sacks did not go to the service, because it was Shabbat, and he said he is not allowed to mourn on shabbat. Instead he greeted the mourners outside of the Abbey.

    6. R' Lord Immanuel Jacobovitz NEVER attended a Church service. That is an outrageous lie. In fact and for the record, for that very reason. R' Lord Immanuel Jacobovitz SKIPPED the wedding of Charles and Diana by asking not to be sent an invitation. (It would seem like a snub otherwise.)

      Sacks had who to look up to but failed.

  9. "a Judaism that is tolerant, inclusive, embracing, non-judgmental"

    In MO double speak, does this mean a Judaism embracing and including atheism, gay rights, feminism, totalitarian big government, invasions of illegal aliens, toleration of black/brown racial supremacist movements? Thanks but no thanks, R. Sacks.

    "Centrist" Orthodoxy cannot preserve Judaism while it attempts to avoid any confrontation with the evil, corrupt ideologies permeating the world. Tolerance for and/or embracing the "gay" movements and feminism have already conquered major sections of Modern Orthodoxy.

    Chareidi Judaism, on the other hand, attempts unsuccessfully to hide from the evil ideologies in Chareidi ghettos, without counterattacking using Torah based ideologies, even while many of the evil ideologies are overrunning the Chareidi bastions.

    Ironically, various idealistic Jews (such as Dennis Prager) vigorously confront the evil ideologies, even though they may not even be MO nor Chareidi.


    1. Against the TrollsJune 26, 2013 at 4:02 AM

      Of course G-d is a Tea Party Republican.

      Nice trolling attempt. The inclusion of Dennis Prager(who claims MO affiliation by the way) really put it over the top.

    2. @Against the Trolls - Its fascinating how "tolerant" MO "Centrists" like yourself suddenly become rather intolerant, judgmental, and intellectually dishonest when confronted by Jews whose vision of Judaism does not include support of causes like atheism, "gay" rights, feminism, big government, affirmative action, etc.

      Instead of admitting your real position in support of those causes, you spew out meaningless phrases like "troll", Republican, over the top, etc.

    3. What R Sacks means by inclusivism, is that he wants an Orthodoxy that does not throw out those who are not currently Orthodox in every detail. Now, you could to the other extreme, such as Beit Hillel vs Beit Shammai, whose animosity towards each other led to them placing men with swords outside each others' yeshivot, because of their ideological differences, and led to a war where 3000 were killed. O, you might say it is better than Sunni vs. shia in Syria, where 100,000 have been killed so far. But The exclusivism you advocate has no bounds, and ends up in violence, eg the Ponovezh succession wars after r Shach's death - which has reduced the Ponovezh yeshiva to an artefact of history.

    4. @Eddie -

      Once again your comments reflect MO intellectual dishonesty.

      "exclusivism you advocate has no bounds" - I never advocated any such idea. If you had read my comments, its clear that I'm advocating that authentic Judaism must vigorously reject certain anti-Torah ideologies prevalent in the non-Jewish world. MO/Centrism seems to be unable or unwilling to exclude anti-Torah ideologies due to its "inclusivism".

      "he wants an Orthodoxy that does not throw out those who are not currently Orthodox in every detail" -
      Where does R. Sacks define his inclusivism this way? Or are you simply putting words in his mouth?

    5. Actually , ELY, you are right, you did not advocate the exclusivism that I referred to.
      Sacks has written and lectured widely about inclusivism for the last 25 years. Perhaps if you were in UK you might have noticed that.
      And I know you speak of evolution, gay rights etc, but evolution isn't an anti Torah ideology. It is a theory in biology.
      Hezekiah was also an inclusivist, and he managed to bring the masses to Torah observance. Unfortunately sacks has not.

    6. Against the TrollsJune 26, 2013 at 6:11 PM

      @Against the Trolls - Its fascinating how "tolerant" MO "Centrists" like yourself
      RW Chareidi actually.
      suddenly become rather intolerant,
      Never said I was tolerant.
      and intellectually dishonest
      Unsupported Ad Hom.
      when confronted by Jews whose vision
      As influenced as it is by galus fascism
      of Judaism does not include support of causes like atheism,
      Don't see how the beliefs of goyim matter to me. Jewish atheism, so long as they keep Torah, I will hold by the Gemarra on that one.
      "gay" rights,
      Again the Goyim can do as they wish.
      A broad and mostly meaningless term. Everything from Torah positions such as stopping spousal rape and spousal battery to to non-Torah things such as ORA fall under the umbrella of "feminism".

      big government
      Torah is silent, and thus so should be the Jew.

      affirmative action, etc.
      Again a vacuous term that can mean anything from Torah positions such as fair treatment and fair wages to non-Torah positions of reverse discrimination.

      Though I find it interesting that a Jew this side of the Auschwitz ovens will advocate discrimination based on race.

      you spew out meaningless phrases like "troll",
      Let's define. A person(like yourself) who uses insults and incindiary language in order to antagonize and disrupt discussion.
      Meaning belonging to a political party. In this case believing that the goyishe ideals of either the Republican party or it's smaller contingent the Tea Party are G-d's word.
      over the top, etc.
      Do you have another way of describing a person who quotes an MO to attack MO?

  10. The real problem is that the centre is a very hard position to hold. Recall in the 1990's Israel had a "Centre Party" that lasted for all of one election and got only 4 seats mostly because its platform, despite being called "Centrist" was indistinguishable from the leftist Labour party's.
    Such could happen here as well. How does one distinguish oneself firmly from both the Chareidim and the YCT crowd? A firm commitment to something without budging has been trademarked by the right. A firm desire to constantly change Judaism as much as possible without violating any actual issurs has been trademarked by the left. What remains?

    1. "What remains?"

      What about a firm commitment to something different? Are there no principled Torah-based positions outside the current positions of the right? TIDE in the Hirschian sense would seem to be an example. Likewise, the pre-WW2 orientation of certain mussar yeshivos.

  11. The problem with a position defined as "Central" is that instead of defining your own policies and positions, you are ceding that responsibility to groups either side of you, over whom you have no control.

    Don't define your Yiddishkeit by reference to anyone else, stand up for what you believe regardless of the opinions of others.

  12. There is a point here. Charedim tend to be very extreme in separating themselves. For example, if one looks at the overall hashkafa of some Chardal yeshivos, one would have to work hard to find the difference between them and charedi yeshivos. Are Mercaz harav and Har Hamor that very different than Chevron or Kol Torah? They agree on all the ikkarim, the central position of Torah in Judaism, and adhere to halacha. Yet charedim tend to dismiss them because of their Zionism. There is no reason why pro or against religious Zionism should play a central role in Judaism. It is simply not the most important theological Jewish subject.

    1. It is simply not the most important theological Jewish subject.

      places like mercaz harav would disagree with statement, from top to bottom.

      יש מי שאינם יכולים לראות בציונות ובמדינת ישראל, את ראשית צמיחת גאולתנו, מפני שחסרים בה כל הדברים שחסרו גם בפסח מצרים ההוא – אלה נשארים בגלות בגופם, או על כל פנים – בנשמתם.

      that is one small quote from rav yoel ben nun, a quote which is a drop in an ocean of articles, books, speeches, about the importance of the zionist enterprise.

      while the people in mercaz don't call those who denigrate the importance of zionism kofrim, they do believe that they are making a huge, fundamental, mistake.

    2. "Yet charedim tend to dismiss them because of their Zionism."

      And because of a perceived lack of stress on yeshivishe lomdus.

    3. PERCEIVED is the correct word....

      Also there is a cognitive dissonance that the possibility to be a Talmid CHocham that embraces 'Tzionut' is a no-go!!

  13. actually, it is possible to annul certain rabbinical gezeiros, if the their observance has lapsed.

  14. Recipients and PublicityJune 26, 2013 at 7:56 PM

    A tempest in a teapot !
    Yet another symbol of the already long-ago Fall of the British Empire.
    Cheerio Rabbi Sacks, enjoy your retirement, we shan't miss you.

    1. That is a matter of opinion, of course.

  15. This is R' Sacks' facebook page, has some of his speeches on it , if anyone has a heter to go to that website of satan...



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