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A Letter in the Scroll: Understanding Our Jewish Identity and Exploring the Legacy of the World's Oldest Religion Paperback – 29 Mar 2004

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Product details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press (29 Mar. 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743267427
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743267427
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 1.8 x 21.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 793,086 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks

A global religious leader, philosopher, author and moral voice for our time, Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks is currently the Ingeborg and Ira Rennert Global Distinguished Professor of Judaic Thought at New York University and the Kressel and Ephrat Family University Professor of Jewish Thought at Yeshiva University. He has also been appointed as Professor of Law, Ethics and the Bible at King's College London. Previously, Rabbi Sacks served as Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth between September 1991 and September 2013, only the sixth incumbent since the role was formalized in 1845.

Described by H.R.H. The Prince of Wales as "a light unto this nation" and by former British Prime Minister Tony Blair as "an intellectual giant", Rabbi Sacks is a frequent contributor to radio, television and the press both in Britain and around the world. A visiting professor at several universities in Britain, the United States and Israel, Rabbi Sacks holds 16 honorary degrees, including a Doctor of Divinity conferred to mark his first ten years in office as Chief Rabbi, by the then Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey.

In recognition of his work, Rabbi Sacks has won several international awards, including the Jerusalem Prize in 1995 for his contribution to diaspora Jewish life and The Ladislaus Laszt Ecumenical and Social Concern Award from Ben Gurion University in Israel in 2011. Rabbi Sacks has also recently been named as The Becket Fund's 2014 Canterbury Medallist for his role in the defence of religious liberty in the public square. He was knighted by Her Majesty The Queen in 2005 and made a Life Peer, taking his seat in the House of Lords in October 2009.
The author of 25 books, Rabbi Sacks has published commentaries to the daily Jewish prayer book (siddur) and has completed commentaries to the Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Pesach festival prayer books (machzorim) to date. His most recent secular book - The Great Partnership: God, Science and the Search for Meaning - was published in July 2011. A number of his books have won literary awards, including the Grawemeyer Prize for Religion in 2004 for The Dignity of Difference, and a National Jewish Book Award in 2000 for A Letter in the Scroll. Covenant & Conversation: Genesis was also awarded a National Jewish Book Award in 2009, and the Koren Sacks Pesach Machzor won the Dorot Foundation National Jewish Book Award for Modern Jewish Thought and Experience for 2013. His Covenant & Conversation commentaries on the weekly Torah portion are read by thousands of people in Jewish communities around the world.

Born in 1948 in London, Rabbi Sacks attended Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, receiving honors in philosophy. He continued his studies at New College, Oxford, and King's College London, where he earned his doctorate in 1981. The same year he was ordained at Jews' College and at Yeshiva Etz Chaim, both in London. He served as the rabbi for Golders Green synagogue and Marble Arch synagogue in London. Before taking the post of chief rabbi, he also was Principal of Jews' College, the world's oldest rabbinical seminary. In 1970, Rabbi Sacks married his wife, Elaine, and they have three children, Joshua, Dina and Gila and several grandchildren.


Tradition in an Untraditional Age (1990)

Persistence of Faith (1991)

Arguments for the Sake of Heaven (1991)

Crisis and Covenant (1992)

One People? (1993)

Will We Have Jewish Grandchildren? (1994)

Community of Faith (1995)

Faith in the Future (1998)

The Politics of Hope (1997)

Morals and Markets (1999)

Celebrating Life (2000)

Radical Then, Radical Now (2001)

The Dignity of Difference (2002)

The Chief Rabbi's Haggadah (2003)

From Optimism to Hope (2004)

To Heal a Fractured World (2005)

The Authorised Daily Prayer Book: new translation and commentary (2006)

The Home We Build Together (2007)

Future Tense (2009)

Covenant and Conversation; Exodus (2010)

The Koren Sacks Rosh Hashana Mahzor (2011)

The Great Partnership: God Science and the Search for Meaning (2011; 2012)

The Koren Sacks Yom Kippur Mahzor (2012)

The Koren Sacks Pesach Mahzor (2013)

Product Description


Wendy Shalit, author of "A Return to Modesty: Discovering the Lost Virtue" Just as slavery in Egypt helped us appreciate freedom, perhaps our current cultural morass will lead us to a Jewish reawakening. Certainly a new generation of young Jews, disappointed with the legacy of the 1960s, is looking for ways to recover its Jewish heritage. Rabbi Sacks helps us in our search, rescuing the ideas of freedom, tolerance, and diversity from their modern perversions and exhuming their original Jewish meaning. "A Letter in the Scroll" does not merely tell us why we should keep kosher and observe Shabbat -- it reminds us of who we are and poignantly shows us who we can be. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks has been the Chief Rabbi of Britain and the Commonwealth since 1991. Educated at Cambridge and Oxford, he has held professorial chairs and congregational pulpits in England, Israel, and the United States. The author of eleven previous books, including Arguments for the Sake of Heaven and The Politics of Hope, he lives in London, England.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

By c van duuren on 4 Dec. 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Erudite, vere well written, a real gem. Fully recommed to anybody interested in Religion. Must read to any scholar and reseacher.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Very very excellent book ! How Jonathan Sachs explains si difficult thing with such a maestria is fabulous. Thank You so much !
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 23 reviews
22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
An excellent Jewish philosophy book 16 April 2001
By R. Stein - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Jonathan Sacks, the Chief Rabbi of England, writes fluidly and lyrically. While this is a general, basic Jewish philosophy text, it is appropriate not only for beginners but also for those with a more advanced knowledge of Judaism. Rabbi Sacks explores a variety of ideas within Judaism including: the egalitarian nature of each Jewish person's relationship with G-d, the Hebrew Bible as the first way to understand the world and how it works without resort to myth, the covenantal relationship between the Jewish people and G-d and the covenantal relationships within Jewish families, Judaism as a rejection of both tribalism and universalism, the synagogue as a revolutionary institution, etc.
The only piece of the book that troubled me was Rabbi Sacks' treatment of the destruction of the Second Temple. While he regards it as political disaster in which the Jewish people lost their national independence, he also feels that it brought about "the flowering of its religious vision." Sacks further states, "[n]ow that the Temple lay in ruins, every Jew became a holy person, offering prayer instead of sacrifice, and achieving atonement through repentance. At long last the ideal of Sinai had become a reality. Israel really was a 'kingdom of priests.'" This fits in nicely with other ideas earlier expressed, affirming the dignity of every individual, particularly in their relationship with G-d. However, Sacks does not deal with the desire to rebuild the Temple (together with its attendant priests and sacrifices) as an important strain within Jewish thought and liturgy.
Overall, this was a pleasure to read and I recommend it highly.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Substantive and Inspiring 13 Jun. 2008
By Robin - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Rabbi Jonathan Sacks is always articulate and thoughtful. This book is no exception. Using beautiful language, he explains why Judaism is valuable for both individuals and for the world. The fact that the manuscript was a wedding gift to his son and daughter-in-law just adds to the poignance of the writing.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
moving 17 May 2010
By Howard J. Schwartz MD - Published on
Format: Paperback
This is a movingly persuasive discussion of reasons to stay involved, and possibly contribute , to the on-going history of the Jews.Written beautifully by one of Orthodox Jewry's best modern thinkers, it represents a challenging and thoughtful approach for those living in the midst of current world affairs.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
The reason for your being.... 12 Nov. 2009
By Keren Horowitz - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Rabbi Sacks clarifies how it is that every Jew is represented as A Letter in the Scroll(the Torah). The consequences of this brings one to understand his/her inherent value and responsibility to the whole of Creation. By perfecting ourselves in the image of Hashem, we sustain the purpose of Creation...this being our foremost task in life.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
I have yet to find a better written or thought out response to "Why be Jewish 28 Dec. 2014
By Aaron Katchen - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I work with Jewish students on campus and this is my go to starting point for any student wanting to delve deeper into their Jewish identity (regardless of upbringing). I have yet to find a better written or thought out response to "Why be Jewish?"
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