Templeton prize goes to Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks

More lucrative than the Nobel, award goes to Britain’s former chief rabbi for contribution to peace, love, and answering life’s big questions

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks. (Courtesy Core18)
Rabbi Jonathan Sacks. (Courtesy Core18)

Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, the former chief rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth, has been awarded the Templeton prize.

Sacks, 67, has written more than two dozen books targeted at bringing spiritual insight to the public. He has spent decades revitalizing Britain’s Jewry during his tenure as chief rabbi from 1991 to 2013.

Sacks has been an outspoken advocate of religious and social tolerance throughout his career. His most recent book, “Not in God’s Name: Confronting Religious Violence,” argues that violence in the name of God is the exact opposite of what any deity would expect of followers:

“Too often in the history of religion, people have killed in the name of the God of life, waged war in the name of the God of peace, hated in the name of the God of love and practiced cruelty in the name of the God of compassion. When this happens, God speaks, sometimes in a still, small voice almost inaudible beneath the clamor of those claiming to speak on his behalf. What he says at such times is ‘Not in My Name.’”

Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks escorts Prince Charles at his farewell dinner (photo credit: John Rifkin/courtesy)
Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks escorts Prince Charles at his farewell dinner (photo credit: John Rifkin/courtesy)

Sacks, who was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 2005 and awarded a Life Peerage in the British House of Lords in 2009, is also an advocate for the compatibility of science and religion, which some people see as mutually exclusive.

“Science takes things apart to see how they work. Religion puts things together to see what they mean,” he writes in his book “The Great Partnership: Science, Religion, and the Search for Meaning.”

The Templeton Prize, according to the website devoted to it, “each year honors a living person who has made an exceptional contribution to affirming life’s spiritual dimension, whether through insight, discovery, or practical works.”

The award is considered the cornerstone of the John Templeton foundation, a philanthropic organization devoted to forwarding and funding discoveries “relating to the Big Questions of human purpose and ultimate reality.”

The prize is one of the world’s largest annual rewards given to one individual, valued at £1.1 million (about $1.5 million). John Templeton set the value of the prize to exceed that of the Nobel prize in order to underline his belief that discoveries pertaining to spiritual questions can be more valuable than those from “other human endeavors.”

Last year’s prize went to Jean Vanier, a Catholic philosopher who founded the international L’Arche network of communities for people with disabilities who live alongside those who assist them. Mother Teresa was the first recipient of the prize, in 1973.

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