It’s been two years, and I’m still devastated by the loss of the great scholar and ambassador of the Jewish people, Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, of blessed memory.

I was privileged to have a number of personal interactions with him over the years.

Many years ago, as chairman of the South African Rabbinical Association, I chaired a meeting where he addressed the rabbis of South Africa. He began by asking:

“What is the single most frequently asked question to rabbis?”

And there were a variety of answers. Where was G‑d in Auschwitz? Why do bad things happen to good people? Why are there no more miracles these days? And so on.

His answer? None of the above. The most frequently asked question of rabbis, he said, is “Rabbi, do you remember me?”

A truly brilliant scholar, Rabbi Sacks never lost touch with the average person’s experience. He understood that people don’t only need answers—they need acknowledgment and recognition of their very existence.

Abraham was probably the most brilliant man of his generation. After all, he alone discovered G‑d and founded monotheism in a primitive, pagan world.

But how did he change that pagan world and teach them to embrace a Supreme Being? Not through his brilliance or philosophy, but through his chessed—his hospitality, kindness, compassion, and generosity to others, including total strangers.

That characteristic flows through the generations of our founding fathers and mothers.

The First Shidduch

In Parshat Chayei Sarah, we read about the very first shidduch in history. Rebecca is chosen to be Isaac’s wife. Why? Not because she was beautiful, which she was, but because of her kindness.

Beauty comes and goes. Kindness, however, is everlasting.

A kind, caring, and generous person is the best kind of person to live with. Especially for a lifetime.

Rebecca showed unbelievable kindness and generosity of spirit when she offered to draw water from the well for Eliezer, his men, and his 10 camels.

Do you know how much water it takes to quench the thirst of a camel who has just walked through the desert? I did the research (yes, I Googled it). The answer is 200 liters! And 10 camels means that Rebecca had to draw 2,000 liters from the well for Eliezer and his entourage!

That is unparalleled kindness and generosity, not to mention no small effort for a young girl.

The Life of Sarah

This week’s Torah portion also includes the passing of both Sarah and Abraham—Sarah at the beginning and Abraham at the end.

To the famous question of why a parshah that deals with the death of Sarah is given the title Chayei Sarah, “The Life of Sarah,” there is a simple but profound answer:

Our lives are measured not only by what we do as individuals, but by what we do for our family and for posterity.

When we read of Isaac’s marriage to Rebecca, the next generation of Jewish continuity is assured, and we know with certainty that Sarah truly lived—her life meaningful, productive, powerful, and therefore eternal.

So, Chayei Sarah, “The Life of Sarah,” is a good title after all.

Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, my friend, my teacher, and in many ways my inspiration, has left the world physically. But he still lives—through his writings, his teachings, his example … and his life.

May his memory be a blessing for Lady Elaine, his wife of 50 years, his children and grandchildren, and for all of us who have lost a teacher, role model, and inspiration.

May his teachings continue to guide and uplift us for generations to come. Amen.