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Letters/Discussion Forums

Publicising dissention with chief rabbi destructive for community

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Two disturbing letters dominated your letters page in the 15 July edition of the SA Jewish Report. The fact that they appeared on the eve of Tisha B’Av was of major significance.

Our sages address the reasons why the two Temples were destroyed on Tisha B’Av. Two of the reasons given are sin’as chinam (baseless hatred) amongst the Jewish people, and another – perhaps less well-known – reason is general disrespect for Torah.

Airing these two letters by two prominent people in our community regrettably compels people to take sides in the issue.

Chief Rabbi Dr Warren Goldstein and the office of the chief rabbi represent Torah in our community. Over the years, Goldstein has filled an incredible leadership role. From the Sinai Indaba to the Shabbos Project, he has achieved prominence for South African Jewry in the world. His approach to the COVID-19 pandemic has enabled Jew and non-Jew to bring experts in the field into our homes through his webinars. Leading doctors, clinicians, and other experts have publicly praised Goldstein for this.

Medical experts, political commentators, and other leaders in the wider community have been unapologetic in their criticism of the government’s tardy handling of the epidemic – from the strange banning of cigarettes amongst other things to ineffectual law enforcement and the vaccine rollout.

The common theme running through both letters was criticism of the chief rabbi.

Perhaps a lesson should be taken from Moshe Rabeinu (Moses) in parshas Korach, who, when he encountered opposition within the community, humbly went and approached the dissidents in their own homes. The authors of these letters should have resolved these issues privately with the chief rabbi.

By airing these letters in public, the office of the chief rabbi and consequently rabbis in our community, whom he represents, have been undermined.

I appeal to people of influence in the community to consider whether their public statements will benefit the community or create further division.

Our community is going through a crisis. Let’s move forward with achdus (togetherness) and unity, and ahavas chinam (baseless love).

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