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Poster Commentary
"Judaism is about sanctifying life."Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks
Poster design:Ilene Winn-Lederer


by Dr. Marc Kramer

We have all heard the canard that whereas Christianity is a religion of faith, Judaism is a religion of law. This always struck me as an odd claim. The church is replete with rules and truly, where would we Jews be without our faith—our emunah—our individual and collective will to always believe that better lies just ahead, within reach, if only we would stretch? 

Far more satisfying—in fact, deeply gratifying—is Rabbi Jonathan Sacks’s notion that Judaism is in its essence about sanctifying life. The Hebrew word l’kadesh means the conscious, willful act of making something holy, setting aside and transforming the mundane into a vehicle for joyfully acknowledging the Creator of the universe. Judaism, thus, seeks to endow life with holiness. 

The sanctification of life begins with a commitment to choose it. In Deuteronomy (30:19) we learn: “I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse; therefore, choose life, that you may live.” Life above all. Jewish tradition gives forth the concept of pikuach nefesh, setting aside all commitments and commandments for the sake of saving a life. Life is so sacred that it is valued above law.

The Deuteronomy verse likens life to blessing. In a world where LIFE = BLESSING, we see that life is not only about existing, but about filling our lives with holy purpose. Living one’s life to the fullest means filling one’s life with meaning and mitzvot. Easy to say; hard to do. Might be time to stretch.  


Dr. Marc Kramer is the executive director of RAVSAK: The Jewish Community Day School Network, and serves as an educational consultant and group facilitator for the Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services of New York. He holds masters’ degrees in social work, education, and Jewish studies, and completed his doctorate at Teachers College, Columbia University as a Wexner Graduate Fellow. Dr. Kramer is the author of several major studies on Jewish day school education and was the 2007 recipient of the Covenant Award. 

Conversation Guide

What do you THINK?

1. Who is responsible for sanctifying life, God or man?

2. In what ways do you add holiness to daily life? Are there parts of your daily life that do not feel sanctified? Why?

3. Rabbi Sacks states that Judaism is about sanctifying life. How would you have completed the sentence: “Judaism is about _________”?


What do you SEE?

1. What are all of the ways that “life” is expressed in this poster?

2. How is “sanctification” represented in the image?

3. What is unusual about the tree and its setting, and how do these features enrich your understanding of the quote?


Copyright© 2015 Harold Grinspoon Foundation

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Proudly Jewish©2015, Ilene Winn-Lederer, Quote: Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, Harold Grinspoon Foundation, West Springfield, MA