Some of the Montreal Wexner Heritage alumni recently brought Rabbi Jonathan Sacks to town for several teaching engagements that were shared with the greater Jewish community. Additionally, we were fortunate enough to get to study in an intimate group with him over breakfast.
Rabbi Sacks shared with us a very empowering message that he had learned as a child from his father. He would ask many questions about Judaism, and his father’s answer was always the same: “I didn’t have an education and so I do not know the answers to your questions. But one day you will have the education I missed, and then you will teach me the answers.”
Rabbi Sacks reminded us that the Israelites — as taught by Moses as they slowly gained their freedom — were instructed that they had to be a nation of educators. We learned that Jews became the people whose passion was education, whose citadels were schools and whose heroes were teachers. That to defend a country you need an army, but to defend a civilization you need schools. That no other faith has attached a higher value to study and none has given it a higher position in the scale of communal priorities. That is why, when our tradition conferred on Moses the greatest honor, it called him Moshe Rabeinu, Moses our teacher.
Rabbi Sacks’s message, simply put, was in order to identify whether a Jewish community will be successful, all you have to look at is their investment in Jewish education. That, more than anything else, will determine the degree to which that community will flourish Jewishly.
Rabbi Sacks combined his giant intellect and wisdom, in both the Torah and secular worlds, with his famous wit and humour to educate, challenge and inspire us. What an incredible opportunity to have him as our teacher!