Talmud this Shabbat: The Late Rabbi Jonathan Sacks on the Soft Tone and Harsh Tone of Leadership


On this first Shabbat after his passing, we are going to dedicate our Talmud class to the incredible Torah of Rabbi Jonathan Sacks. We have a unique angle.

One of our members, Paul Greenberg, was blessed to have had a series of email exchanges with Rabbi Sacks based on his various teachings. One particularly evocative exchange had to do with the tone of leadership. What is the optimal tone? After watching Rabbi Sacks’ TED talk, Paul observes: “I especially noted that the tone seemed hopeful, gentlemanly, moderate.” Then Paul asked the Rabbi his question:

I have always thought that the tone of protest ought to be loud, forceful, and jarring. So my question is how to reconcile the soft tone of your TED talk with the harsh tone of protest.

Rabbi Sacks’ answer was as wise as it is beautiful and inspiring. His answer is what our world needs now. His answer, and the biblical story on which he bases it, will be the subject of our study on Shabbat morning. The texts are attached here.

May Rabbi Sacks rest in peace. May his Torah improve our tone. May our better tone improve our world.