Rabbi Jonathan Sacks has created a masterful work that defines our very existence as human beings as an expression of a Divine plan, calling each of us individually — and humanity collectively — into a sacred partnership with a clear and specific mission. We can be good only by doing good, and through our actions we demonstrate our God-like qualities and abilities to make this a more moral and ethical world for all its inhabitants. Sacks, Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of Great Britain and the Commonwealth, weaves a tapestry from a wide range of traditional Jewish sources, interspersed with literary, psychological and spiritual references. Noteworthy also are his wonderful and moving stories of ordinary people who acted in extraordinary ways with amazing and often far-reaching implications. Tackling issues of faith, tzedakah versus chesed, kindness to strangers, ways in which we can sanctify God’s name, or the very origins of the concept of tikkun olam, Sacks is always clear, cogent and insightful. He has a conceptual elegance in his presentation of ideas— whether citing a Talmudic interpretation, a Hasidic tale or offering his own insights— which at times I found to be breathtaking. Rabbi Sacks has created a small gem, which bears reading and rereading by all; an important and compelling “gift” to his people that is well-suited for Jews of all denominations, who may well be inspired to do good as a result of this book. But Sacks’ message is not a parochial one limited to Jews. Anyone who recognizes that there is a Supreme Other in this world and that all of us at some point are an other in need of healing, will find reading this wonderful book a transformative and life-affirming experience.
William Liss-Levinson is vice president, chief strategy & operations officer of Castle Connolly Medical Ltd., a consumer health research, information, and publishing company. He holds a Ph.D. in education and is a member of the board of directors of the Jewish Book Council.