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Religious leaders, including current Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and Israel’s former Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi, Yisrael Meir Lau, came together in the online event to hail Rabbi Sacks’ legacy. The tribute on Sunday was held to coincide with the end of the Shloshim, which is the 30-day period of mourning since his death on November 7. In a heartfelt message, the future heir to the throne Prince Charles described Rabbi Sacks as an “irreplaceable loss to the Jewish community” and “a trusted guide, an inspired teacher and a true and steadfast friend”.
He said: “As we commemorate the life of Rabbi Lord Sacks, I just wanted to add my own personal tribute.
“His sudden and unexpected death is an irreplaceable loss to the Jewish community, to this nation and to the world – but most of all to his family, to whom he was utterly devoted.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with them at this saddest of times.
“Through his writings, sermons and broadcasts, Rabbi Sacks touched the lives of countless people with his unfailing wisdom, with his profound sanity and with a moral conviction which, in a confused and confusing world, was all too rare.”
Prince Charles hailed Lord Jonathan Sacks as an ‘irreplaceable loss’
Prince charles paid tribute to the former Chief Rabbi
Prince Charles added: “He and I were exact contemporaries, born in the year of the foundation of the State of Israel and, over many years, I had come to value his counsel immensely.
“He was a trusted guide, an inspired teacher and a true and steadfast friend. I shall miss him more than words can say.
“With his incomparable store of learning, and with his innate sense of the power of the story, he defined the moral challenges and the choices our society faces, speaking with conviction across the boundaries of the sacred and the secular, across the generations and across all barriers of culture and religion.
“He taught us how to listen to others, and how to learn from them without compromising the convictions of either party; he taught us to value participation in the common life of the nation; and through it all, he taught us the need to respect the integrity and harmony of God’s Creation.
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Prince Charles said Rabbi Sacks was ‘a trusted guide, an inspired teacher and a true and steadfast friend’
Prince Charles also took time to remember an event from 2013 to mark Rabbi Sack’s retirement after 22 “distinguished years”.
He added: “In 2013, at the event to mark Rabbi Sacks’s retirement as Chief Rabbi after twenty-two distinguished years, I said – deliberately misquoting Isaiah – that he was a “light unto this nation,” and said I hoped he would keep that light burning for many years to come.
“That was only seven years ago. But, in the years that he was given to us, how brightly that light burned, how many lives were brightened, how many dark places were illuminated. He was, truly, Or laGoyim [“A light unto the Nations”].
The Prince of Wales continued: “In contemplating this tragic and devastating loss, all we can do is to have faith in the divine providence in which Rabbi Sacks himself placed his trust. As the Psalmist says, our times are in his hands.
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Prince Charles with Lord Jonathan Sacks in 2013
Tony Blair described the former Chief Rabbi as a ‘teacher’
“Though Rabbi Sacks’s time with us seemed all too short, his seventy-two years left the world transformed by his presence. In his sermons, his broadcasts and his books, he spoke with urgency – rich with learning, rooted in humility, charged with passion. His was unmistakably a voice in the tradition of the greatest teachers among the Jewish people.
“We mourn his passing, but we thank God that he was given to us for these seventy-two years, and that, in that time, he renewed our vision of a society where all are valued, where all share a moral bond and a divine purpose. We honour his memory by committing ourselves to that vision.
“When his own revered teacher, Rav Nachum Rabinovitch, passed away earlier this year, Rabbi Sacks paid tribute and said: “Teachers give us more than knowledge. They give us life. Having a great teacher is as close as we get to heaven.”
“Those words could rightly be said of Rabbi Sacks. Yehi Zichro Baruch. May his memory be for a blessing.”
Former Prime Minister Tony Blair also paid tribute to Rabbi Sacks and remembered their friendship fondly, describing the former Chief Rabbi as a “teacher”.
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He said: “We often used to discuss the Bible together.
“What Jonathan did for me was, he gave those things that were stories I was familiar with, he gave them meaning. And he gave them meaning to me in the life that I was leading.”
He added: “Rabbi Sacks ended up, in part, giving me a sense of my own religious tradition and an understanding of other religious traditions. But most of all, he gave me a feeling of why it was important to have faith and how faith was central to human progress.”
“I know that the things that he gave me as a teacher, as a true rabbi, they will remain with me until the day I die. And in some small way, I try and then pass on some of those lessons to those who come after me.”
Fellow former Prime Minister and Labour Party leader Gordon Brown said: “Jonathan combined the passion of a great teacher with the compassion of a great humanitarian.”
Israel President Reuven Rivlin hailed Rabbi Sacks as a “light; not just for the Jewish people, but for all peoples.”
He added: “Rabbi Sacks wrote about one of the most difficult threats facing the whole world today. The threat of hatred and violence that pretends to be for the sake of God.
“As a leading voice for the Jewish people, and for the whole humanity, he knew that Israel must be a Jewish state.
“Yes, a home for the Jews after 2,000 years in exile. But also it must be a democratic state.”