Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

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26 Adar II 5765 - April 6, 2005 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Rabbi Dr. Warren Goldstein Inaugurated as Chief Rabbi of South Africa

by D. Saks

Rabbi Dr. Warren Goldstein was formally inaugurated as Chief Rabbi of South Africa this week at a solemn and moving ceremony held at the Bet Hamedrash Hagadol in Sandton. Amongst those in attendance was South African President Thabo Mbeki.

Rabbi Goldstein is the third Chief Rabbi to be appointed since the unification of all Orthodox congregations under one body in 1986. Sadly, Rabbi Goldstein's illustrious predecessor, Chief Rabbi Emeritus Cyril K. Harris, was unable to attend the ceremony due to serious illness. Rabbi Yossy Goldman led the congregation in the recitation of Tehillim for his speedy and complete recovery.

In Rabbi Harris' absence, Rabbi Goldstein was inducted by Rosh Beth Din Dayan Moshe Kurtstag. Rabbi Kurtstag pointed out that Rabbi Goldstein was the first locally born and trained Chief Rabbi to be appointed in South Africa, which made the occasion a source of pride not just to himself and his family but to the South African Jewish community as a whole.

In his inaugural speech, Rabbi Goldstein emphasized the illustrious lineage of the Jewish people, the Patriarchs and Matriarchs, whose pioneering striving for holiness had led to the emergence of the family of Israel and laid the foundations for the greatest event in history, Matan Torah at Har Sinai.

"We are the children of these heroes of the Book of Books, and we stand on their shoulders," he said.

The Sinai experience, Rabbi Goldstein said, had been indelibly imprinted on the collective memory of the entire Jewish nation, not just those who were actually there but all succeeding generations. It was the real birthplace of the Jewish people. Chazal stated clearly that a community dedicated to Shomayim would endure forever, and therefore Jews will only survive and thrive if they are in sync with the values that sustained their forefathers throughout the generations.

"Knesset Yisrael is a vertical community, rooted in Sinai. It is the moral vision of Sinai that holds us together as a community, for all Jews and forever thereafter," he said.

Rabbi Azriel Goldfein, founder and rosh yeshiva of the Yeshiva Gedolah of Johannesburg where Rabbi Goldstein learned for seven years and obtained his smicha, congratulated the Union of Orthodox Synagogues on the wisdom of their choice of Chief Rabbi. Referring to Rabbi Goldstein as his "dear and beloved student," he described him as young in years but mature in wisdom. He exhorted him to respect and protect on the great achievements of Rabbi Harris and to build on them to raise the Jewish community of South Africa to ever-greater heights.

South Africa has given the Jewish community the greatest possible gift, he said, that of allowing its members to serve Hashem in peace and tranquillity. South African Jewry therefore owes their country a debt of honor and should strive to do its part in helping build South Africa into one of the world's great nations.

President Mbeki called the inauguration "an auspicious occasion, both for the Jewish community of South Africa and the country as a whole" and, on behalf of all the people of South Africa, wished Rabbi Goldstein all success in his challenging new position. Religious leaders had a crucial role to play in South Africa today, he continued. By their personal example, and through the wisdom of their teachings, they can inculcate in their followers the values of honesty, compassion and self-discipline that are so vital in establishing a truly just and moral society.

Rabbi Shmuel Suchard, Dayan on the Beth Din and long-serving rov of the Beth Hamedrash Hagadol, read out a message from Rabbi Harris, written from his sick bed, in which he urged Rabbi Goldstein to take the lead in pushing for ever higher standards of Yiddishkeit throughout the Jewish community.


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