Below is the opening prayer delivered by South Africa’s Chief Rabbi Dr. Warren Goldstein’s at the memorial for Nelson Mandela.
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.