Foremost Jewish thinkers at memorable Sinai Indaba

The Sinai Indaba 2013 in Cape Town.
Delegates at the Sinai Indaba 2013 in Cape Town. (PHOTO: Facebook)
Lesson in community for Christians

Unite! Inspire! Discover! And we certainly did, feeling the eager buzz at Indaba III amongst the 1 700 people at the Cape Town International Conference Centre recently.

There was a stunning line-up of speakers with the Indaba dubbed the most unprecedented gathering of the foremost international Jewish thinkers ever assembled in South Africa.

The high profile personalities included the Chief Rabbi of Great Britain, Lord Jonathan Sacks, (who bears a remarkable resemblance to the well known English Bible teacher, David Pawson,) and the TV psychotherapist star Gary Neuman of Oprah fame. Others, men and women, spoke on issues from Torah to marriage counsel, and from politics to women’s issues. The Indaba was first in Johannesburg at the Sandton Convention Centre for two days and then moved to Cape Town (June 17), Port Elizabeth (June 18) and Durban (June 19).

Torah scholars
With the accent of the Sinai Indaba project towards a greater embrace of the Jewish community, we felt very privileged and grateful to join them and experience Scripture teaching from some of the world’s top Torah scholars.

Chief Rabbi of Great Britain, Lord Jonathan Sacks. (PHOTO: myshtetl.co.za)
Chief Rabbi of Great Britain, Lord Jonathan Sacks. (PHOTO: myshtetl.co.za)

At a quick count it was estimated that about 50 Christians attended; Vivian Myburgh, daughter of the late, and much loved Johan Greef who did so much to promote relationships between Christians and Jews said “Sinai was like having a feast with the tastiest dishes available to eat – much to chew on and food for our souls!”

And like every such feast, the choices were mouth watering making decisions of which speakers not to hear, quite wrenching.

A similar thread of every talk from Holocaust survival to Technology and Finance gave glory to God and the Word. It was delightful sharing their seeking through the scriptures as the way to achieve an intimate relationship walking daily with our Father.

If one anticipated deep Torah teaching and revelation though, you might have been disappointed; the Oosthuizens from Stellenbosch found the talks very interesting but found some “didn’t have a substantial meaty content to the topic”.

Whilst the conference covered a wide swath of worldly issues, yet it was a real experience of ‘community glue’. Despite the hundreds of ‘denominations’ and great differences in modern Judaism one sensed a hard core bond in their simply being Jewish. A people standing together through turbulence and loss for thousands of years. I felt a sadness that we Christians don’t show that same bond in being Christians; we are privileged to be grafted into the same olive tree through Jesus, (Yeshua); we share the same nourishing sap, our veil has been lifted by knowing their Messiah; cause for unity – yet we don’t exhibit it!

Sabbath campaign
Chief Rabbi, Lord Sacks and South Africa’s Chief Rabbi, Warren Goldstein, together announced a campaign being floated to draw all Jewish people back to observance of the Sabbath. Lord Sacks, a man of wisdom and authority with a gentle spirit, impressed the value of keeping the Fourth Commandment, the blessing of one day off to rest and worship and enjoy family time, every Friday night and Saturday – every Shabbat. He credited Shabbat as having kept the Jews; kept marriages strong, kept families close and kept unity in communities. And the message would be equally applicable to Christians.

In our fast moving world where we barely get time to take a breath, it is a huge blessing to down-tools on a Friday evening, turn off cell phones and computers and sit down to a joyful family meal followed by a day of God-centring, catching up on sleep and making family memories.  The campaign will focus on one Sabbath in October, yet to be announced, when all Jewish families will be asked to observe from sundown to sundown, this blessing from the Almighty.

The Indaba closed with the vibrant and eclectic music of “The Heart & The Wellspring” a modern klezmer band with strong classical and slight jazz influences reminding us of the multicultural nature of the Jewish people bringing Sinai to South Africa for a very memorable indaba!

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