Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, a”h, will remembered as a world-famous author, a Jewish philosopher, and the chief rabbi of the United Kingdom for 22 years. Sadly, this giant of a man passed away six months ago. In his many years of communal leadership, he spoke in hundreds of public forums, wrote dozens of books and hundreds of articles (including a weekly column carried in this paper). Because of his powerful impact, capturing his personality, essence and greatness would be a daunting task for anyone.
But, never one to shy away from difficult challenges and pushing against all odds, Rabbi Ruvi New, the spiritual leader of the Chabad of East Boca Raton, Florida, sat down with great trepidation to compose a song. In 2017, he released an album called “Storm the World” (that reached #8 in the World Music Chart on iTunes two weeks after its release), an album featuring message-heavy songs, and he wanted to create a new song that will help him capture the impact of Rabbi Sacks.
The concept of a tribute to Rabbi Sacks came to Rabbi New shortly after his passing. He was very moved and influenced by his teachings and his life’s story. He felt that a lot of what he represented are values we should all try to emulate. Finding a way to share his legacy through a medium that is not typically shared, music, led to a song – “It’s Never Too Late” – with music composed by Yitzy Waldner and arranged and produced by Yitzy Berry and Eli Klein, and featuring Jewish singer Shlomo Simcha.
As New explains, there are always “two stories to each person, their personal story and their teachings.” The foundation of the song’s theme is Rabbi Sacks’ powerful message in his book A Letter in the Scroll that every Jew is like a letter in the Torah scroll; every family a word, each community a sentence. “This could be a great lyric,” New thought. “It packs such a powerful message that Jewish history is something that I am integral to. We are all part of the story. If the Torah is missing one letter, it’s deemed invalid. If the world is missing my contribution, it’s incomplete.”
Rabbi Sacks taught that you need to take control of everything in your life, be empowered since we each have a mission. Hence the chorus of the song that you never find yourself in a situation that you can’t undo.
Rabbi New heard Rabbi Sacks speak at a convention of Chabad shluchim around 2010. He says it was “hands down, one of the most electrifying and memorable speeches the gathering has ever heard.” It was an inspiring moment personally for New and he incorporated this message in It’s Never Too Late. Rabbi Sacks spoke of how the Lubavitcher Rebbe changed his life. He came to America to visit religious leaders but due to the Rebbe’s schedule, Sacks could not get on his calendar. Once in the U.S., the Rebbe’s secretary said there was an opening for a meeting. Sacks could not afford the flight over from California, so he hopped on a cross-country bus and made it to the Rebbe. When the Rebbe asked him what he was doing for Jewish life at Oxford, Sacks replied, that “in the situation I currently find myself…” The Rebbe uncharacteristically interjected mid-sentence and said “we don’t find ourselves in situations. We have to take action.” That was the turning point in Rabbi Sacks’s life. And it is that image that opens the song and the accompanying video.
Rabbi Sacks was one of the greatest ambassadors of Judaism, evidenced by the array of people who paid tribute to him, including Prime Minister Tony Blair, Prince Charles, and many other world leaders and prominent dignitaries.
As Rabbi New states, “Rabbi Sacks proved that that the world is willing to listen to Jewish values. We do have an important message to the world. And Rabbi Sacks was a good example of that.” New approached this task with hesitation knowing that no single song or story can ever encapsulate a person as great as Rabbi Sacks. This song is just one in a broad, global tapestry that has been gathered since his passing. New’s hope is to present enough about Rabbi Sacks in four-minutes-and-fifty-seconds that it will inspire people to learn and read more of Rabbis Sack’s writings. The video, filmed by Pinchas Halluch and edited by Asher Essebag, is framed with very selective images and video footage of Rabbi Sacks to give context and help drive the message home of the dignity and respect Sacks so deserves.
The feedback to the new song and video has been “tremendous,” according to New. “From people who knew Rabbi Sacks who said it is a very fitting tribute, to first-timers who realize he was an extraordinary and remarkable man, and who now want to learn more about him.”
The audio version is available on Spotify and iTunes, and at StormTheWorldProject.com, where can also find the music video.