Music and the Spoken Word: ‘All of us together’

Editor’s note: “The Spoken Word” is shared by Lloyd Newell each Sunday during the weekly Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square broadcast. This is an encore performance of “Music and the Spoken Word” with a new “Spoken Word” selected and recorded while the choir is practicing social distancing. This will be given Sunday, Jan. 17, 2021.

“A free society is a moral achievement,” wrote the late Rabbi Jonathan Sacks in a book published just months before his passing. Freedom does not come from economic policies or political power, he observed. It requires morality, which Rabbi Sacks defined as “a concern for the welfare of others, an active commitment to justice and compassion, a willingness to ask not just what is good for me but what is good for ‘all of us together.’ It is about ‘Us,’ not ‘Me’; about ‘We,’ not ‘I’” (see “Morality: Restoring the Common Good in Divided Times” by Jonathan Sacks).

Just as the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us to exercise an abundance of caution, we could also use an abundance of care and compassion during these troubling times. The world seems so polarized, so divided, and yet our desires to pull together can be stronger than the forces that pull us apart. And they must be, because we need each other.

The problems our world faces today will not be solved by individuals or isolated groups. We face these problems together, and we will find solutions together. To do this, we need to talk with each other, listen to each other, respect differences and acknowledge our shared humanity.

Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks speaks at a press conference announcing his winning of the 2016 Templeton Prize, in London, on March 2, 2016. Rabbi Sacks, the former chief rabbi in the U.K. who reached beyond the Jewish community with his regular broadcasts on radio, died at 72 in November 2020.
Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks speaks at a press conference announcing his winning of the 2016 Templeton Prize, in London, on March 2, 2016. Rabbi Sacks, the former chief rabbi in the U.K. who reached beyond the Jewish community with his regular broadcasts on radio, died at 72 in November 2020. Credit: Kirsty Wigglesworth, Associated Press

Sometimes we think complex problems require complex solutions. But the key to building a moral, compassionate society is surprisingly simple. It involves applying some ancient wisdom that is still relevant in our modern world: Love one another. Treat all with dignity. Share your blessings with the less fortunate. And give special attention to those who are sick in body and spirit. We “do these things,” Rabbi Sacks noted in “Morality,” “because, being human, we are bound by a covenant of human solidarity, whatever our color or culture, class or creed.”

It’s true that living in a free society gives us some independence. But we still depend on each other. Preserving our freedom will require our cooperation and our compassion.

Each of us plays a part in making our society moral — and free — by our habits of heart, thought, speech and action. It is indeed “a moral achievement” to do what is good for all of us — together.

Tuning in …

The “Music and the Spoken Word” broadcast is available on KSL-TV, KSL Radio 1160AM/102.7FM, ksl.com, BYU-TV, BYU Radio, Dish and DirectTV, SiriusXM Radio (Ch. 143), the tabernaclechoir.org, youtube.com/TheTabernacleChoiratTempleSquare and Amazon Alexa (must enable skill). The program is aired live on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. on many of these outlets. Look up broadcast information by state and city at musicandthespokenword.org/schedules