Thank you, South Africa!

  • ParshaKievemanShemos
This week saw social media ablaze with the “brocha” recited at the ANC’s recent birthday bash. ANC policies on Israel aside, I would like to draw attention to a theme that runs through the story of our people.
by RABBI ARI KIEVMAN | Jan 19, 2017

There’s a fascinating law in the Torah. Although almost anyone who is genuinely sincere about conversion to Judaism is accepted wholeheartedly into the Jewish faith, there are some exceptions.

Certain nations who were excessively cruel to the Jewish people are not allowed entry into our nation. Surprisingly, the Egyptians, who nearly annihilated our ancestors, enslaving and torturing them for centuries, are not on that list. Why? As a symbol of gratitude.

Says the Torah: “Do not reject the Egyptians, for you were a guest in their land.”

There are countless examples throughout the Torah and Jewish literature illustrating the importance of a gratitude attitude even to inanimate items from which we’ve derived benefit. 

In the story of our exodus, the saga of which we begin to study in this week’s parsha of Shemos, thankfulness is a recurring theme. 

How did Moshe, the pre-eminent character in the entire story get his name? The Torah tells us that it was Pharaoh's daughter who named the Jewish people’s great leader.

The midrash relates that indeed he had other names, yet the name he’s known as was the one given to him by an Egyptian princess. Why? As an expression of thanks for her saving his life as an infant.

When Moshe encountered G-d at the Burning Bush and was tasked to confront Pharoah, he was reluctant to follow G-d’s command to smite the Egyptians. Why? Because he didn’t want to be ungrateful to the household where he was raised.

Even more, although Moshe was instructed to bring the plagues upon the Egyptians, he didn’t personally execute the first three. Why? In order to reciprocate the kindness which the Nile River and the dust of the earth had previously shown him.

The very name Jew means to thank. Each morning when we wake up and realise the beautiful blessings we have in our life, the first words we are to utter are of gratitude to our Maker for giving us another day.

The Jewish way is to be grateful to anyone from whom we’ve benefited, even if the interaction wasn't wholly positive. 

If, to the northern African country where we have suffered, we are enjoined to be grateful for their hospitality so long ago, then it is imperative for us to be appreciative of this southern African country where we reside with freedom and equality.

Despite its challenges, our people have been able to prosper graciously here, free from restraint and persecution, and we ought to acknowledge that kindness.

So, when the ANC invites someone to represent the “religion of Judaism” and to say a blessing that includes the “G-d of Israel”, I think there’s still plenty we could be grateful for. 

Let’s pray for better relations with our people’s eternal homeland and appreciate the many beautiful blessings conferred on this country. Remember, the Rebbe assured us that South Africa will be good until Moshiach comes and even better after. 


  1. 7 Chon 20 Jan
    Yet the bottom line was to get out of Egypt (exile).
    Same today. No matter how 'good' we have it here, and how thankful we must be, our main purpose must be to get out of here.
  2. 6 nat cheiman 21 Jan
    The 60's rock group, The Animals sang a number called
    "We gotta get outa this place."
    Maybe Choni has a point.
  3. 5 Michael 22 Jan
    I have never read such a misinterpretation in my life.
    Could the current government show it's hand more than it has. All over The Palestinians. No favours to Israel and most importantly Besides being white which doesn't seem to have any advantages on South Africa, for years The Jews have gone to extraordinary lengths to become invisible.
    Wow  RABBI ARI KIEVMAN , as an expert on The Torah you certainly try to add credence to that document by referring to it.  I don't know where you were born but you should brush up on Jewish History in South Africa. It was monumental and in a good way and an attempt has been in action to expunge it.
    Hooray ... they let you say a Bracha. Ever heard of tokenism.
  4. 4 Choni 23 Jan
    Chabad always try to see the good in everything.
    Sorry, user, remainder of comment expunged for trolling  -Moderator
  5. 3 Harry 26 Jan
    Kol Hakavod on your excellent article “Thank you, South Africa” which appeared in the latest edition of the SA Jewish Report.  I emphatically agree with you Rabbi that we should “pray for better relations with our people’s eternal homeland and appreciate the many beautiful blessings conferred on this country”.

    It's good to see how Chabad puts a positive angle at things. I don't see the rabbi condoning the ANC's policies in any way nor is he recommending that we stay here. He's plainly stating that if we're here we should be appreciative of what we have and indeed I think we do have it much better off here than in so many other places fraught with antisemitism. 
  6. 2 Sara 29 Jan
    Such a beautiful, beautiful article.  Thank you for your and Batya's valuable and ongoing contribution to the South African community.
  7. 1 Choni 29 Jan
    Refer to answer to earlier comment HERE to see why this comment has been censored. The writer's last one-word sentence, above, concluded his attack on another commentator for not sharing his own opinion. That is neither response nor comment, but bigotry and trolling, attacking anyone who says anything that differs from his own view. The immutable fact, here, is that almost every Jew living in South Africa does so because they choose to. Choni would have his kin believe that he alone has the right to make such a choice. Choni and his family may well have their own special circumstances for having returned to live in SA - but so have his kinfolk, a reality he refuses to acknowledge. Rather, believing that he has the only special circumstances, he conveniently chooses to forgets that the special circumstances that keep him in SA have been provided (and are maintained) by the very same people who he would send away. And then, who would satisfy his family's special needs? Due to repeated requests once again to stop his trollng and bigotry, both online and by email, being ignored - our moderators will once again be asked to simply delete his comments that are not comments and not escalate them to this desk for explanation. The explanation, Choni, is always the same, and if you see a comment of yours is not published that once again, it is due to your bigotry, trolling and insulting other users. Opinion welcome, trolling to be deleted...   -Online Ed


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