Often words of praise for one’s own group leave me cold. Actually, the self-praise by one special group or another often sounds childish to my ear. I imagine a large blue and white foam hand with index finger raised and the words “We’re Number One” emblazoned on the palm.
But Rabbi Sacks is a master communicator. He knows, I think, that at certain historic moments any group may need a little positive self-talk. His words come at a moment when the public domain is riddled with anti-Jewish sentiment and ugly, hate filled anti-Semitic calumnies. Rabbi Sacks’ comments remind us of what we Jews truly are.
When African-Americans began to chant “Black is beautiful,” they hadn’t just noticed that black is beautiful. At a certain juncture of history it became especially, essentially important to assert this truth. Black lives have always mattered; today it has become critical to declare it. When civil rights protesters chanted “We are…somebody” they were declaring at a dangerous, climactic, explosive moment that they, and all humans in the globe, have essential worth, no matter what others say or do.
Rabbi Sacks is saying, in the face of a global tide of anti-Semitism, that to be, live and think as a Jew is beautiful, and that as Jews our historic mission has always been to work to make the earth a more beautiful place for all God’s creatures.