I’m still flying from Wednesday night’s lecture from Chief Rabbi of England Lord Jonathan Sacks. He’s more eloquent than any speaker I can recall hearing in person (the accent helps!), his breadth of Torah knowledge is comparable to the giants of our generation and his wisdom in chochmah matches the great thinkers in academia. Combine all of that with humor, and you’ve got an unparalleled speaker and outstanding, prolific author.
In what was his first visit to Chicago, Rabbi Sacks spoke about how to respond to crises b’emunah, with faith. He spoke in response to the financial crisis in Europe (and thereby in the rest of the world), and said that the Jewish perspective on wealth is to cherish those aspects of life that have intrinsic value rather than a price. And the antidote to our consumer society, where we’re all so focused on the have nots? Shabbos. Shabbos is the only day where we focus on everything that has value and nothing that has a price. Without the interruptions of our gadgets and busy schedules, it’s the day we spend with our families and friends, focusing on our purpose in this world. It’s the secret to a healthy family life and a healthy state of mind.
Through stories and observations, Rabbi Sacks articulately imparted his wisdom upon hundreds in the audience, and I have no doubt that everyone there gleaned many lessons. I walked away feeling proud to be Jewish.
But what happened after the speech was the most moving part of my evening. On my way out, I ran into the 94-year-old father of a neighbor, to whom I had recently lent Rabbi Sack’s Letter in the Scroll. And when I asked him if he read the book, he looked at me with tears in his eyes, saying, “I read the whole thing. I still have a lot of questions, but it made me put on tzit tzit.” Indeed, he put tzit tzit on for the very first time that day, just in time for the Chief Rabbi’s visit.
It’s never too late to grow.