The question that Rabbi Jonathan Sacks was asked most?

Friday, 22 October, 2021 - 3:54 am

What do you think is the question that Rabbi Jonathan Sacks was asked most?

Last week I met a friend who had had a few chats with the former Chief Rabbi of Great Britain, Rabbi Jonathan Sacks z”l. I admit that that is something that I would have liked to have experienced as well. The friend shared a number of fascinating stories with me, and one of the most special ones was about Rabbi Sacks asking him the above-mentioned question: “I give speeches hundreds of times a year; I meet scores of people of all types; what do you think is the question that people ask me most?”

The friend made a few guesses, but the rabbi smiled and said, “Well, this is the question: ‘Rabbi Sacks, do you remember me?’”

Amazing, isn’t it?

It turns out that we are interested in many things and topics, and we learn a lot, but it seems that there is one basic thing that we all need: We want to be remembered; in other words, we want to be noticed and remembered, to be important to someone, certainly if he is on the level of Rabbi Sacks.

As I’m writing this, what comes to mind is that my mother, who was a teacher and a principal in the Beit Rivkah High school in Kfar Chabad for forty-eight years, always says that that is the most common question she is asked by her former students, young or old, some of whom were her students ten years ago and some forty years ago. They all ask the same question: “Hamenahelet (Principal), do you remember me?”

The parasha we will read tomorrow in the Torah is parashat Vayera, the parasha in which Hashem reveals Himself to Avraham.

I don’t know how many of us turn to Hashem sometimes and ask, “Do you remember me?” I assume that if we were close enough to Hashem, or felt close, that is what we would ask. And this is the point at which every Chabadnik is reminded of the story about Rabbi Shalom Dov Ber Schneersohn of Lubavitch, the fifth Chabad Rebbe, also known as the Rashab. One year, when he was four or five years old, on his birthday, he entered the room of his grandfather, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneersohn, the third Rebbe, known as the Tzemach Tzedek, in order to be blessed. And as the child entered the room, he burst into tears and said, “Why did Hashem reveal Himself to Avraham and not to me?”

This child, who, as mentioned, later became a Rebbe, had just learned the weekly parasha of Vayera, and had read or heard that Hashem reveals Himself to people, and here He is indeed revealing Himself to Avraham Avinu, so he too wanted to have such a revelation. Perhaps this is a type of “Do you remember me?” of tzaddikim

I have two things to say by way of a summary: The first relates to bein adam lachaveiro – mitzvahs that concern interpersonal relationships. One must look around, understand and remember that people want us to remember them – especially people who have some kind of connection to us – just like we want them to remember us. 

The second thing relates to bein adam lamakom – mitzvahs that are between man and his Creator. The truth is that we are close enough to Hashem to really and truly want Him to reveal Himself to us, even though it doesn’t come as naturally as it did to a scion of family of Rebbes. Nevertheless, we do have this desire, this yearning to come closer, to experience a spiritual revelation, to feel that Hashem is close to us. And if this doesn’t happen, we are allowed to ask: “Do you remember me?”

Shabbat Shalom, 

Rabbi Zalmen Wishedski

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