There is a verse in the Book of Sirach that has always resonated with me profoundly that says, “If you see an intelligent person, rise early to visit him; let your foot wear out his doorstep.” (Sirach 6:36)
Likewise, Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks has been an example to me of applying this principle concretely.
When he was a university student, he decided to travel throughout America to meet the leading rabbis of the day. All of them insisted he had to meet the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Menachem Mendel Schneerson.
Upon requesting the meeting, Sacks was initially laughed at for his audacity. However, some days later he got a phone call informing him, “The Rebbe will see you on Thursday.”
Young Jonathan Sacks made the trip and had a conversation with the Rebbe that changed the course of his entire life.
Reflecting on this episode shortly before his death, Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks said, “And I think: How was I lucky enough to meet this guy? Well, answer: I took a three thousand mile plane trip to America. I took a 72-hour journey from Los Angeles to Brooklyn. You know, there was nothing accidental about it. I tried to put myself in the way of significant ‘others’, people I admire, and I’ve kind of done that all my life. So, you can spend your life being willing to travel a long way to meet somebody who you think might just have a truth that you need.”
Today I too travelled a long way to meet somebody who I thought might have a truth that I need.
Inspired by having heard her story on a webinar that I helped moderate, I yearned to visit 89-year-old Jewish-Christian Holocaust survivor Hanna Zack Miley in order to hear her story more directly and in greater depth and to ponder together some of the deep, existential questions that we share heart-to-heart.
And so, I flew to Phoenix in order to spend a day and a half with her, her husband George, and her ministry team. I will forever treasure the conversations we shared and know that they will be an ongoing source of inspiration for me as I enter this next season of life.
In subsequent posts, I will write more about this marvellous encounter. For now, I rejoice in receiving the insight that has been handed down for generations, from Ben Sira to Rabbi Sacks, that it is worth travelling a long way for a visit to attach ourselves to someone wise. (Sir. 6:34)