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Cantor's Comments - Parshat Chaya Sarah                November 14, 2020 - 27 Cheshvan 5781

11/13/2020 10:09:18 AM


This past week has been a mesmerizing onslaught of news from the Biden victory in the American elections, to President Trump's refusal to concede amidst baseless accusations of election fraud.  Even the announcement of death of beloved Jeopardy host Alex Trebek was only just barely powerful enough to attract the attention of the mainstream media.  While the world wasn't paying attention, the great Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks passed away, only a few months after disclosing that he had cancer.  In a quiet instant, the world lost one of its greatest Jewish scholars, authors, educators and communicators of the modern era.  Under other circumstances, his funeral would have attracted tens of thousands, and dignitaries from all over the world.  Instead, he was buried quietly and quickly in accordance with London's COVID restrictions, and no more than 30 people in attendance.

There is an old Chassidic story that tells of the deaths of two men in one town on the same day.  One was a great rabbi and scholar, and the other a murderous villain.  By some accident during the preparation of their bodies for burial, their identities were mistaken and their caskets switched. As a result of the mistake, the villain's funeral was presided over by a host of dignitaries, and was accompanied by thousands to the cemetery where the casket was buried in a place of honour.  Meanwhile, the great rabbi's funeral was a modest one, with only a few in attendance.  Why would God allow such a tragic disrespect for the great rabbi, and such an honour for a villain?  The chassidic masters teach that by this, the villain could be rewarded on earth for the small acts of righteousness he had done in his lifetime, so that he could then earn his eternity in Gehenom.  Meanwhile, the rabbi's indignity was the earthly consequence of the small sins he committed in his lifetime, so that he could then merit an eternity in paradise.

In memory of Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, I invite you all to watch this amazing video of him giving a TED talk in 2017 which could not be more relevant today . It is a true testament to his scholarship and genius as a communicator to watch him speak to a world audience, about world issues, from the perspective of Jewish wisdom.

Shabbat Shalom,

Mon, July 4 2022 5 Tammuz 5782