THE CHIEF’S FREE­DOM

The Jewish Chronicle - - COMMENT&ANALYSIS -

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 si­mon­plat­man@hot­mail.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

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