THE CHIEF’S FREEDOM
The Chief Rabbi tells us ( JC, April 4) that biblical narrative demonstrates that Judaism “is the ongoing drama of human freedom”. As prime examples of this, he cites the stories of Adam and Eve, the Flood and Babel; all of whose characters used “their freedom to transgress boundaries”. In other words, we are all free to do as we like… so long as it is not forbidden. Given all the rituals, mitzvot and other elements of Jewish law, it feels like double-speak — by this definition, the people of Burma, Saudi Arabia and North Korea are all free.
It appears that the Chief Rabbi’s notion of freedom boils down to little more than the freedom from despair. This is not to be sneezed at, but surely it is a pale substitute of what’s implied by a statement as momentous as: “At the heart of Judaism lies the belief in human freedom.” If Sir Jonathan is to claim so much for the religion he must find better arguments in support — or scale back on his ambitions for it. Simon Platman email@example.com
We write to thank Jonathan Sacks for his excellent essay. However, we wish to draw attention to a common misconception regarding Sigmund Freud’s approach to “freedom”. While emphasising the power of unconscious drives, Freud strove long and hard to distinguish the significance of the ego and superego (1923) in mediating the unconscious and thereby establishing the relative autonomy and agency of the “self”. Bernard Barnett, PhD F Inst Psychoanal, Ruth Barnett, Clinical Director Raphael Jewish Counselling Service Fortune Green Road, London NW6
In a recent television programme by Mark Dowd on fundamentalism, Sir Jonathan Sacks said: “The job of a religious leader is to interpret the ancient texts for our own time. What God wants from us here and now, is not what he wanted from us in another place at another time.”
I thought of this when I read of his CD to celebrate the 60th birthday of Israel ( JC, March 4), and his decision not to include female voices. He seems to be prepared to alienate the vast majority of his United Synagogue congregation in order to placate the tiny minority who would agree with his decision. Apart from the obvious insult to the female half of his members, is this not an insult to the other half as well, suggesting that men are such animals that they cannot hear a woman’s voice without thinking lewd thoughts? Renee Bravo South Woodford, London E18