mandelaby Rabbi Awraham Soetendorp

Today humanity as a whole mourns Nelson Mandela. It is a rare moment to reach out to the people of South Africa. We truly feel to be one human family , one earth community with a common destiny. It is the mark of Mandelas greatness that he has made us all more whole. Through his life of struggle and triumph he allowed each and every one of us to have a place in his dream.

He followed in the footsteps of Moses whom GD had commanded when he stood on top of the mountain to view the land he would never enter: "Lift up your eyes, sah et eynecha!" And the Rabbis commented, when one stands on top of the mountain one can only look down beholding the land outstretched below, why then lift up your eyes? It is a reminder to see with a heavenly vision to thus behold in the desert the gardens that will be planted.

To see the water in the rock, to plant the future in the present. Mandela had this blessed ability to develop and never lose this haevenly vision. No power in the world could take this away from him. His gaze reached the wide horizon of reconciliation. It enabled him to turn the pain and and the anger for the fate of twenty seven years of imprisonment into an oppportunity, an inner road to freedom. And het taught us to conceive his confinement as the necessary time frame during which a revolutionary change could take place in the hearts of the leaders of South Africa so that they themselves could emerge from the prison of their own making.

And thus after his liberation the oppressors and oppressed could unite in building a humane South Africa where no one would be degraded and no more blood would be shed. Like Moses he led his people to freedom on the road to the promised land of peace and justice, with the same humility.

Mandela was a serving leader, a member of a courageous, talented team of which he was convinced others were more competent than he was. In these days of grief and thankfullness South Africa is the mirror in which humanity beholds its own image of despair and hope, still torn between the reality of uneqality, unimpeded hostility and the dream of sharing and helping the neighbour to flourish.

The nobility of spirit of Nelson Mandela will continue to inspire us to walk much faster the road to wholeness and thus complete freedom. We bow our heads in sorrow while lifting our eyes in gratefulness.

The Soetendorp Institute


Jacob Soetendorp Institute for Human Values
Van Wijngaerdenstraat 21
2596 TW The Hague
The Netherlands