Covenant & Conversation 5775 on Ethics

Beyond Nature (Noach 5775)

Covenant & Conversation

Are we naturally good or naturally bad? On this great minds have argued for centuries. Hobbes believed that we have naturally “a perpetual and restless desire of power after power, that ceaseth only in death.” We are bad, but governments and police can help limit the harm we do. Rousseau to the contrary believed that naturally we are good. It is society and its institutions that make us bad. The argument continues today among the… read more

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Confronting Violence in the Name of God

There are many conflicts around the world at present which claim to be in the name of God, particularly (although not only), the Middle East – such as ISIS in Iraq (with the persecution of Christians and Yazidis in Mosul), the ongoing situation in Gaza (which affects all three faiths of ‘the people of the Book’), and so on. In this public lecture, Rabbi Lord Sacks, as Professor of Law, Ethics & the Bible at King’s College London and Global Distinguished Professor of Judaic Thought at New York University, reflects on how we might challenge this situation and confront this violence, and do so in the name of God. This lecture was delivered on Monday 20th October 2014 in London.


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  • “A Judaism divorced from society will be a Judaism unable to influence society. It will live and thrive and flourish behind high walls within its own defensive space, but it will not speak to those who wrestle with the very realities - poverty, disease, injustice, inequality and other assaults on human dignity - to which Torah was directed in the first place.”

  • “Civil society rests on moral relationships. They are covenantal rather than contractual. They belong to a liberal, not libertarian, social order. They are brought about not by governments but by us, as husbands and wives, parents, friends and citizens, and by the knowledge that what we do and what we are makes a difference to those around us.”

  • “Creation has its own dignity as God's masterpiece, and though we have the mandate to use it, we have one to destroy or despoil it.”

  • “Every Jew is a letter. Each Jewish family is a word, every community a sentence, and the Jewish people at any one time are a paragraph. The Jewish people through time constitute a story, the strangest and most moving story in the annals of mankind.”

  • “Faith is born not in the answer but in the question, not in harmony but in dissonance.”

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