The Ethics of Responsibility

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To Heal a Fractured World by Jonathan Sacks, Schocken, February 6 2007

One of the most respected religious thinkers of our time makes an impassioned plea for the return of religion to its true purpose — as a partnership with G-d in the work of ethical and moral living.

What are our duties to others, to society, and to humanity? How do we live a meaningful life in an age of global uncertainty and instability?

In To Heal a Fractured World, Rabbi Jonathan Sacks offers answers to these questions by looking at the ethics of responsibility. In his signature plainspoken, accessible style, Rabbi Sacks shares with us traditional interpretations of the Bible, Jewish law, and theology, as well as the works of philosophers and ethicists from other cultures, to examine what constitutes morality and moral behavior.

“We are here to make a difference,” he writes, “a day at a time, an act at a time, for as long as it takes to make the world a place of justice and compassion.” He argues that in today’s religious and political climate, it is more important than ever to return to the essential understanding that “it is by our deeds that we express our faith and make it real in the lives of others and the world.

To Heal a Fractured World—inspirational and instructive, timely and timeless—will resonate with people of all faiths (from the Hardcover edition).

About the Author
Jonathan Sacks has been Chief  Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of  Great Britain and the Commonwealth since 1991 and has received honorary degrees from universities around the world.  He is the award-winning author of a dozen previous books, writes frequently for The Times (London) and other periodicals, and is heard regularly on the BBC.  Rabbi Sacks was knighted in 2005.

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Praise from Dr. Norman Lamm

Chancellor, Yeshiva University

Upon receiving this latest volume by Rabbi Sacks, I appreciated again his well-deserved reputation for marrying high content to elegant style. There
are no pious preachments here, and no self-conscious intellectual posturings. To Heal a Fractured World is carefully reasoned yet warm, intellectually engaging, and entirely quotable.”

Praise from Professor Akbar Ahmed

Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies, American University

“I have rarely met anyone who combines spirituality, intelligence, wisdom, and compassion in quite the way Dr. Jonathan Sacks does. He has taught me so much about the Abrahamic faiths. He is truly a spiritual Master, which is why I believe he can be called Mahatma, or Great Soul.”

Review from Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Although written by a rabbi, this powerful, biblically based plea for ethical behavior will appeal to non-Jews as well as to Jews. The erudite author, the chief rabbi of Great Britain, contends that all people have to be both ethically and socially responsible, and supports this through examples of people he’s met or read about as well as through biblical and Hasidic tales. His analysis of these storiesand their lessons is beautifully informed by philosophy, psychology, theology, poetry and literature.

Sacks’s wide-ranging scholarship is evident in the authorities he cites, including Plato, Karl Marx, Victor Frankl, Joseph B. Soloveitchik, William Wordsworth, Rashi, Maimonides, Jean-Paul Sartre, John Donne, Erich Fromm, Sigmund Freud and many others including Talmudic and rabbinical sources. Sacks claims that he “tried to make the book as simple and readable” as possible, but it is at times somewhat heavy-footed. Patient readers will be rewarded by exposure to a great intellect who demonstrates how his knowledge and experiences have led him to the conclusion that each individual has responsibility “to heal where others harm, mend where others destroy, [and] to redeem evil byturning its negative energies to good.”  Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc.

Review by George Cohen, Booklist

Sacks, the author of 12 previous books, is chief rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of Great Britain and the Commonwealth. The ethics of responsibility, so he posits, is the idea that God invites us to become “his partners in the work of creation.” The theme of his book is that life is God’s call to responsibility. Citing the twenty-first-century’s challenges of a scale and scope that seem to defy solutions–environmental and political problems and the growing inequality between rich and poor – Sacks insists that it is up to us to make adifference, “to mend the world one life at a time, one act at a time, one day at a time.”

Drawing on traditional interpretations of the Bible, Jewish law, and theology, he analyzes the essence of morality and moral behavior. He is one of the most eminent religious scholars of our time, and his book should interest Jews and non-Jews alike.


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