In 2017 Rabbi Jonathan Sacks addressed hundreds of Jewish students at the Olami Summit. He gave an epic speech to help prepare them for the challenges of life.
“Long ago in a lonely desert at the foot of a mountain in Sinai God entrusted a small, fractured, obstinate people with nothing particularly to distinguish them but he gave them an algorithm- it was called Torah. This algorithm turned them into the most remarkable, tenacious, fate defying people the world has ever known! How it works? I don’t know, but that it works, I do know. You are about to embark on a future, every one of you has dreams and plans and you’re about to enter a future in which nothing is predictable. The world is changing faster than ever before and it gets faster every year. You will need certain strengths to come through, thrive and succeed. That strength is found in the Torah.
Here are 7 ways the “algorithm of the Torah” will impact your lives:
1. It will strengthen all your key relationships.
No one has stronger marriages than religious Jews, no one has a stronger sense of community than Jews, nobody has the same sense of collective responsibility of every Jew all over the world. You cannot get through life and find happiness and success on
2. All success depends on habits of discipline and willpower.
Halacha, Jewish law is the world’s greatest ongoing seminar in discipline and willpower.
3. If you want to avoid burnout mid-career, you have to find and keep Shabbat – the world’s greatest seminar in work-life balance.
That is the power of Shabbat today. In the times of Moses it was freedom from slavery to Pharaoh, today it’s freedom from the tyranny of social media and email.
4. Happiness is a matter of gratitude with attitude.
When you live as a Jew what are the first words you say every morning? “Mode Ani…” So you learn to thank before you think. If you live a life that way you will have a lifetime of satisfaction.
5. Judaism will keep your mind active for a lifetime because to be a Jew has to be a moment of life-long learning
6. Whatever you do in life you will need an internal moral code.
You need the inner voice that says “no”- and that is what Judaism teaches you.
7. For happiness, resilience, and success – you need a sense of identity.
You need to know who you are-of what story you are a part of. We are not some “free-floating” atom in space blown by every wind, to be Jewish, is to be part of the greatest story on earth.
These 7 values are all part of that remarkable algorithm that turned Jews into the most resilient, creative transformative people the world has ever known and yes we may not be born great, we may not achieve greatness but if we’re Jewish we have
greatness thrust upon us. It’s hard to be a Jew -it needs the effort of dedication and will but it’s the hard things that make you strong, it’s the hard things that give you pride, it’s the hard things that make you feel most vividly alive!”
This is an extract from Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks’s address in the Openjng ceremony of the 2017 Olami Summit in London. To watch the full speech click here.