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Full Transcript: Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein’s Opening Prayer at Mandela Memorial Service

December 10, 2013 11:34 am 7 comments

President Obama at the memorial service for Mandela. Photo: Screenshot.

Below is the full transcript of Chief Rabbi Dr. Warren Goldstein’s opening prayer at the memorial service held for Nelson Mandela in South Africa on December 10, 2013.

G-d and King, who is full of compassion, G-d of the spirits of all flesh, in whose hands are the souls of the living and the dead, receive, we beseech You, in Your great loving kindness the soul of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela who has been gathered unto his people.

Remember for him the righteousness which he has done.

Remember, O L-rd, how he exemplified the finest qualities of your servant Joseph, about whose great leadership, generosity of spirit and powers of forgiveness, we read in your Hebrew Bible. Joseph, the son of Jacob, the son of Isaac, the son of Abraham was thrown into a pit with snakes and scorpions by his brothers who were filled with hatred and jealousy towards him; and he was then sold into slavery and exiled from his father and from his home for twenty two years, many of which, due to a terrible injustice, were spent in jail..

Joseph emerged from jail to become a leader and head of government of a mighty nation, and when he was reunited with his brothers, had the opportunity to exact vengeance and justice.  And yet, Joseph, the righteous, transcended his personal pain and need for retribution by forgiving his brothers so that his family would not be torn apart and destroyed forever.

So too, Oh L-rd, your servant Nelson Mandela, like the biblical Joseph, rose up from jail to become President of a mighty nation; he too transcended his personal pain and years of suffering to forgive and to embrace his brothers and sisters who had inflicted so much pain on him and so many millions of others, in order that our diverse South African family would not be torn apart by hatred and division.

Madiba brought to life the ancient words of Joseph when he said to his brothers   in Genesis chapter 50 verse 19:

“‘Fear not – for am I in place of G-d? Although you intended me harm, G-d redirected  it for good: in order to accomplish – as is clear this day – that a vast people be kept alive. So now, fear not – I will sustain you and your young ones.’ And so he comforted them and spoke to their heart.”

Nelson Mandela spoke to our hearts. He brought us comfort. And through his mighty power of forgiveness he sustained us, and liberated our country from the pit of prejudice and injustice, unleashing the awesome generosity of spirit of millions of South Africans.

Let his reward be with him, and his recompense before him. Shelter his soul in the shadow of Your wings. Make known to him the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand, bliss for evermore. Bestow upon him the abounding happiness that is treasured up for the righteous

O G-d, who heals the broken-hearted and binds up their wounds, grant Your consolation to the mourners. Strengthen and support them in the day of their grief and sorrow; and remember them and their families for a long and good life. Wipe away the tears of all South Africans, and indeed the world. Bless the people of this country, a nation of heroes, who came together to transcend the pain of the past, in order to build a great nation on earth,  and inspire our hearts to continue to walk in the path of Nelson Mandela, to live up to his majestic legacy.

As the Bible says,

“Like one whom his mother comforts, so will I comfort you, says the L-rd, and in Jerusalem shall you be comforted. Your sun shall never more set, neither shall your moon wane; for the L-rd G-d shall be your everlasting light, and the days of your mourning shall be ended.” And let us say Amen.


  • Theophilus Hammah

    Thanks Rabbi.You have done well by elaborating on Joseph’s story.Your prayer is a blessing to all humanity and encouragement for mankind to have a tolerant and forgiving heart.May the L-rd G-rd of Israel grant you more wisdom to share with the entire world.Shalom.

  • Rabbi
    Thank you for sharing and allowing G-d to use you for speaking of change. The words was so awesome.

  • Ricci Lee Hertzberg

    Thank you for the most amazing speech and tibute, not only did it mezmerise and tranfix me, but inspired me! I am proud to hold my head up high as a jew in a diversified nation with respect for all, honouring and appreciating all diversified cultures; in South Africa.

  • Mordechai Bloom

    How one compare Mandela to Yosef the Righteous boggles the mind. Mandela, after he was released from prison, went to Gaza, where in a video, declared in the presence of Yassir Arafat, yimach shmo, that if the path of peace does not work, then violence must be used to attain the goals of a Palestinian state. Mandela might have preached conciliation and peace in South Africa, but when it came to Israel, he encouraged its enemies in the use of violence.

  • It was fitting for the opening prayers of the life of Mandela to be likened to Joseph, and to be opened by Israel Chosen people and the Holy Land CUFI

  • melechbenavraham

    a truely awe-inspiring tribute which held me transfixed and mezmerised during and long after it was delivered.

  • Beautiful tribute well spoken

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