From Tribe of Mentors written by Timothy Ferriss (Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, page 158-160).

beginning at the bottom of page 158…

I decided that I would write a personal response to 9/11 to be published on the the first anniversary (of 9/11). It was called The Dignity of Difference. It was a very strong book and a very controversial book. Members of my own community believed that I had simply gone too far, and that I had been guilty of heresy.

This was in the beginning of 2002 and something rather funny happened. Rowan Williams has just been appointed as archbishop ofCanterbury, and the week before his appointment he had attended a Druid service in Wales, which was regarded by some Church of England people as a pagan act.

So there was one newspaper headline, which said, and I doubt that this has been ever been said before or will it ever be said again, “Archbishop of Canterbury and Chief Rabbi Accused of Heresy.”

Now, when you’re the defender of the faith, it is a little challenging, to say the least, to be accused of being a heretic to the faith. There were calls for my resignation. I felt that many of my rabbinical colleagues did not understand the book and were critical of it.

It was simply unclear to me how I could move from here to there.

I could not see a scenario that would allow me to recover my standing and my reputation, my credibility as a Jewish leader, and that plunged me into total despair. When there is no light at the end of the tunnel, all you can see is the tunnel. I felt at that point there was no way forward. Probably the most important thing I had to do was resign.

It was then that I heard a voice. I’m not going to say this was God talkingto me, but it was certainly a voice that said to me, “If you resign, you have given your opponents the victory. You have allowed yourself to be defeated in this first battle of what you see as the major challenge of the coming generation.

I couldn’t do that.

Despite the fact I was in almost unbearable personal pain, I could not resign. I could not hand my enemies, my opponents, the opponents of religious tolerance and reconciliation, that victory.

That was when I suddenly realized it wasn’t about me. It was about not letting down the people who had put their faith in me and not betraying the ideals that had led me to take the job in the first place and write the book in the second place.

So that was the turning point and, in the end, the fact that I survived and emerged stronger after than I had been before, was not only important for me. It was important for all the other rabbis, because they too could see that you can take a controversial stand, we widely criticized, and yet still come through and still be able to sing with Sir Elton John, “I’m still standing”.

There was a 180-degree shift, a Copernican shift in my understanding of the nature of what I was doing. It wasn’t personal at all; there as no self-involvement here. It’s about what you stand for, and the people that you care about. From that moment on, I became, in a sense, invulnerable, because I was no longer putting myself on the line.

How many people are in the tunnel, surrounded by darkness, alone, unable to see light on the other end, not even knowing if there is an end? That’s a tough place to be.

Be the light.

The light isn’t at the end of the tunnel, when you think it’s there, it’s not. The light is inside you, shining through you, illuminating the end of the tunnel.


Dare to create.

Dare to believe.

Dare to innovate.

Dare to fail.

Dare to stand for something.

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