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At Memorial Service South Africa’s Chief Rabbi Compares Nelson Mandela to Biblical Joseph

December 10, 2013 12:00 pm 4 comments

South Africa's Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein at the memorial service for Nelson Mandela.

At the memorial service for Nelson Mandela on Tuesday, attended by world leaders, South Africa’s Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein eulogized the former South African Presidentlikening him to the biblical figure Joseph for his ability and willingness to forgive. “Joseph emerged from jail to become a leader and head of government of a mighty nation. He was reunited with his brothers and had the opportunity to exact vengeance and justice and yet Joseph transcended his personal pain and his need for retribution by forgiving his brothers so that his family won’t be torn apart and destroyed forever,” Goldstein said to a crowd of thousands.

Leading an interfaith prayer service, Chief Rabbi Goldstein recalled Mandela’s ability “to embrace his brothers and sisters who inflicted so much pain on him and millions of others.”

The memorial also featured eulogies from U.S. President Obama, Brazil’s Dilma Rousseff, Cuba’s Raul Castro and China’s vice president Li Yuanchao. Leaders spanning the globe, from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, were also in attendance, as were former U.S. Presidents George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter.

Tuesday also happened to be the 20th anniversary of the day when Mandela and South Africa’s last apartheid-era president, F.W. de Klerk, received the Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts to bring peace to their country.


  • The Rabbi knows what he is doing. He is a big talmid chacham.

    Mandela acted a lot different than some other African leaders. Look at Robert Mugabe for example, in Zimbabwe. So he surely deserves credit for that.

  • Goldstein’s comments if quoted accurately betray a dangerous and irresponsible ignorance of scripture that smacks of revisionism.

    The Torah says:

    Bereishis 45/5

    “And he said I am Joseph your brother that you sold me to Egypt. And now do not be distressed or angry at yourselves for having sold me here for it was as a supporter of life that God sent me ahead of you.”

    and then

    Bereishis 45/8

    “And now, it was not you [the brothers] who sent me here but God”

    From this we understand that Joseph the Tzaddik realized that everything that happened was part of God’s plan, as first revealed in his dream thirteen years earlier. Therefore anger or “personal pain and his need for retribution” were simply not part of the equation, nor was his any part of Joseph’s motivation that his “family won’t be torn apart and destroyed forever.” Joseph had the power of prophecy and knew that all the event that happened to him were so that he could maintain the Jewish chain of legacy and bring God’s Will into fruition. He did not have to overcome selfishness or anger, those things simply never had any effect on him at all.

    When politicians misquote and distort scripture for their own purposes, many may be fooled and no one is surprised. But these statements by someone who should know better are totally unacceptable. They’re false, pandering, distortions of scripture and a Chillul Hashem.

  • Why do people continue to compare Mandela to our most beloved tzaddikim? This man committed atrocious acts against his own people and against humanity. He counted amongst his closest and dearest friends the enemies of Israel and Klal Yisroel. He ideals, aspirations and actions lined up with the most despicable terrorists, tyrants and murderers ever to have walked this earth. One percent of his actions were, perhaps, laudable; does that one percent invalidate or erase the ninety-nine percent of his crimes? I believe not. So, please, if you must speak of the one percent, in all fairness, also mention the ninety nine percent.

    • chaim grossferstant

      Hamodia ran a balanced piece that presented both the Chief Rabbis hero -worship and the damage Mandela’s cozying up to the Palestinians did to Israel..

      He was shrewd and complicated. I don’t think your 99 % vs. 1% breakdown is accurate. there are few historical greats who were not responsible for the deaths of hundreds. As Rotzchim go Mandela was relatively mild.

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