Rabbi Sacks and Gidi Grinstein at The Reut Institute

On 25th May 2014, Rabbi Sacks held a public conversation with Gidi Grinstein, founder of The Reut Institute. The event consisted of a private learning session for a group of civic and business leaders in Tel Aviv, followed by a public dialogue with Rabbi Sacks and Gidi Grinstein. Here are some highlights from those conversations.

First highlight: Rabbi Sacks in conversation with Gidi Grinstein


Speaker 1:

Ladies and gentlemen. I’m privileged to invite Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, former Chief Rabbi of Britain and one of the most influential thinkers, the leader of the Jewish people, who will talk about the challenges we are facing in the Jewish leadership. I would like to invite Gidi Grinstein, the visionary [applause]

Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks:

Gidi is just an amazing individual. Somebody with an enormous breadth and depth of understanding and great clarity of vision, and his wonderful book, Flexigidity, is just one of the most exciting books I’ve read in many, many years. His Excellency the British Ambassador, we thank you so very, very much for the incredible and wonderful job you’ve done. It’s been a stressful time, and you have handled that stress with wisdom and with grace.

Gidi Grinstein:

So basically, yes, the book is called Flexigidity, and it looks for the secret source of Jewish survival, security, prosperity and leadership, which is basically adaptability. So as we know, Mark Twain famously said that “everything is mortal but the Jew. All forces pass, but he remains.” And then Mark Twain asked, “What is the secret of his immortality?” And the beginning of an answer that I started working with was the work of Darwin, and the work of Darwin, it’s a quote actually associated to Darwin. He said, “It’s not the strongest of species that survives, nor the most intelligent. It’s the most adaptable.” So Darwin’s answer to Twain’s question is in the word ‘adaptability’, and the book is a journey to Jewish adaptability.

Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks:

A leader is one who says, “When bad things are happening, I’m not going to sit and complain. I’m going to be one of those who makes it better. When the world is dark, I am not going to curse the darkness. I am going to light a candle.” And at the end of the day, all the criticism in the world will not take away from your feeling of satisfaction that when there was that moment, you got up. You stepped up to the plate, you did something. And I will tell you this, despite all the failures and all the mistakes, because there are no leaders who never made mistakes. The truth is, you will look back and look at all those failures and you will say, “I led a life worth living. I helped to make the world that is a little more like the world that ought to be.”

Second highlight:


Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks:

Does anyone know the first recorded words of a Jew to Moshe Rabbeinu? If you look in Tanach you will see, it’s quite simple. He sees two Jews fighting. He intervenes, and they turn to him and say, “mi samcha l’ish sar v’shofet aleinu?” [מִ֣י שָֽׂמְךָ֞ לְאִ֨ישׁ שַׂ֤ר וְשֹׁפֵט֙ עָלֵ֔ינוּ] (Exodus 2:14) They are already challenging his leadership, and he hasn’t even dreamt of being a leader. The good news about the Jewish people is that we created the world’s greatest leaders. The bad news is we’re the world’s worst followers, which makes life a little complicated.

First scene in the birth of a leader, very consequential words. You remember, Moshe Rabbeinu has been adopted by the daughter of Pharaoh who gave him his name. He’s been brought up in an Egyptian palace, and he has his first moment of leadership. Moshe Rabbeinu went out and saw their suffering. That is what made Moses a leader, when “Vayar b’sivlotam” [וַיַּרְא בְּסִבְלֹתָם] (Ex. 2:11), when you see your people suffering, if you’re a leader, however reluctant you are a leader, you cannot walk away.