Letters to the Next Generation
Reflections for Yom Kippur
Published to coincide with Yom Kippur 2009/5770, this collection offers reflections on the key themes of the holiest day in the Jewish calendar, written by the Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks to two fictional students, Sara and David.
The booklet is dedicated in memory of Susi and Fred Bradfield z”l who, in their lifetime, instilled in their children and grandchildren a deep love of Judaism and the importance of its values. Their commitment to Judaism, the Jewish people and to Israel has remained an inspiration to their family and to all who knew them. Their lives were “letters to the next generation”. May their memory always be for a blessing.
The introduction can be read below. A secondary booklet, Letters to the Next Generation 2: Reflections on Jewish Life, is also available.
Yom Kippur is the day of days, when we give an account of our lives.We reflect on what has happened to us and what we plan to do in the coming year. To help this process I’ve written some thoughts that may evoke reflections of your own, for each of us must make his or her own decisions and no one can make them for us.
I’ve cast them in the form of letters written by a father to his children who’ve just become parents in their own right. I’ve done so because it’s a way of discussing the big decisions that shape the rest of our life for us and those close to us. They are fictional letters, but the issues they raise are real.
Not all of us are married; not all are blessed with children; yet we can each make a unique contribution to the Jewish people by the life we lead and the kindness we show to others. Rashi wrote: “The main descendants of the righteous are their good deeds”. Every good deed is like a child.
The single most important lesson of Yom Kippur is that it’s never too late to change, start again, and live differently from the way we’ve done in the past. God forgives every mistake we’ve made so long as we are honest in regretting it and doing our best to put it right. Even if there’s nothing we regret, Yom Kippur makes us think about how to use the coming year in such a way as to bring blessings into the lives of others by way of thanking God for all He has given us.
May God bless all of us for the coming year. May He hear and heed our prayers. May He forgive us and help us forgive others. May He grant you, your family, and the Jewish people throughout the world, a year of health and peace and life.
Chief Rabbi Sir Jonathan Sacks