Statement by Emeritus Chief Rabbi Cyril Harris
Read by Rabbi Dr. Dennis Isaacs at Chief Rabbi Goldstein’s inauguration
My fondest wish these past few months has been to see the installation into the full splendor of his office of our new Chief Rabbi. The ancient biblical ceremony of the laying on of hands conveys the full weight of the transfer of authority from the outgoing to the incoming leader. But more than the tangible reins of power are indicated here, for the ceremony was performed in the sight of the entire community. An era comes to an end and a new, hopefully fruitful and altogether beneficial, one begins.
“Shir Ladoshem Shir Chadash” – “Sing unto the L-rd a New Song” – is a mandate we are constantly charged to fulfill. Without deviating from well-trodden paths, without in any way lowering the standards, values and norms by which the Jewish community lives, the Shira Chadasha, the new song, can help galvanise towards the pinnacles of communal well-being, with a fresh and exciting approach.
Rabbi Goldstein is known as a Master of Torah, a Doctor of Laws, and a fierce campaigner on behalf of the vulnerable. His appointment is most welcome. Moreover, amid the turmoils of South African life, it promises entrenched stability.
During my term of office I was the recipient of wise and well-meant advice from Jewish experts and laymen alike, and found this of great benefit. On this special day, I would ask that this same courtesy be extended to our new Chief Rabbi in full measure.
A glittering array of opportunities presents itself on today’s scene. With Torah Judaism well to the fore, we can and must push for even higher standards of Yiddishkeit throughout our community. Our ties with Israel, hopefully to be blessed with the true prospect of peace, can take on renewed vigour, and in the sphere of African development quintessential Jewish ideas of benevolence can be given practical expression. The overall challenge of our time, boldly described as MPH – Making Poverty History – will require the best of efforts to succeed.
In three weeks’ time we will be celebrating the Exodus from Egypt, in which we go back to the origins of our people and the miraculous events of the Exodus to recapture our historic sense of purpose and to identify with our unique destiny.
May these worthy feelings be with us today, as a further hopefully glorious chapter in our community begins to be written.