In this talk broadcast on Radio National on Good Friday, Norman Swan was interviewing the chief rabbi of the Commonwealth, Jonathan Sacks in front of an Australian Jewish audience. It was a wide-ranging conversation, returning often to questions of science and religion, but with Sacks pursuing numerous fascinating byways.
He talks about how the finely-tuned universe and the existence of life were so unlikely that they made God’s existence probable. Stephen Hawking tries to explain the finely-tuned universe by theorising that there must be an infinite number of universes, and we just happen to be in the one where random processes gave us advanced life. Ockam’s Razor requires we go with the simpler explanation, that the universe is divinely designed.
He talks of how Hebrew is a language without vowels, and thus words can only be discerned in their context as the reader supplies the vowels. It gives rise to a more creative, religious way of thinking, a meaning-giving way of thinking, as opposed to Greek, the first language to include vowels.
On the question of other religions, Sacks goes to the story of Pharaoh’s daughter who saved and adopted Moses. In his words, she is to the Hebrews like Hitler’s daughter; certainly no Hebrew, and yet she is saved. For him, the Jewish religion has always been inclusive and God has always been including people of other religions. He uses the analogy of a pair of trousers – singular at the top (God) and plural at the bottom where the legs go in (believers).
I found him stimulating yet comforting, a wise man.