Sunday, April 26, 2009

What I learned from Jacob Zuma

Like him or hate him, you've got to respect him. Jacob Zuma may have a checkered past, but he stole the hearts of South Africa and led the ANC to a landslide election victory last week.

I wouldn't advocate learning morals or honesty from Zuma, but here are a few things you can learn:

1. Don't limit yourself by what other say

Zuma stared down raging condemnation and campaigned his way to the country's top position.

As a Jew, you can expect plenty global criticism. Turn a blind eye and get on with what you know you need to do.

2. You don't have to know how it will all work out

I doubt whether JZ knew quite how he would wiggle out of his corruption trial. His skeleton-filled closet threatened to burst open right up until literally moments before the poll.

Today was the birthday of the fourth Lubavitcher Rebbe, whose motto was Lechatchila Ariber: Stay focused on your goal, put your head down and go for it. Don't waste time worrying about what could go wrong- just make it happen.

3. They don't care how much you know...

... but they know when you care. Zuma ousted the dispassionate and aloof, AIDS-denier Thabo Mbeki using his suave, people-friendly personality. He showed that he could relate to real people and their real problems, and that swung the electorate.

Being Jewish is not all about knowledge- despite what people may tell you- but about sincerely caring for your fellow Jew. Knowing the Talmud backwards, but being judgmental of the Jew who drives on Shabbos undermines the fundamentals of our faith.

4. Dare to conquer your enemy

The greatest coup of this election was the ANC's overwhelming victory in Kwazulu Natal. KZN is a traditionally Zulu stronghold and the most powerful base of Mangosuthu Buthelezi's IFP party. Never before has the ANC made such inroads into this region.

But Zuma is a Zulu. He campaigned heavily in volatile territory- and won.

A Jew is expected to venture into the "enemy territory" of our the mundane world, and transform it into holy territory. Be it business, excercise or eating- a Jew can and should convert the experience from its default position to serving a new and higher purpose.

1 comment:

mosh said...

For Reb Zushe and Reb Mendel, the lowest you could sink to learn something about service of Hashem was a Russian thief.

A shalich of the Lubavitcher Rebbe to Africa, on the eve of the True and Complete Redemption, has to look even "lower", so as to raise up even that level.

"Eizehu chacham-halomed mikol adam"--even a debauched Zulu.

Moshe Kruger
ex-South African
Kfar Chabad