• Simone Penn

A Shabbat of Paradox

Updated: Nov 24, 2019

This is a guest post written by my husband, Jonathan Penn. CA(SA) and Group CFO of Picknik Marketing (one of the largest independent paper producers on the continent). Can you tell I’m proud?


We just came out of Shabbat Parshas Noach. None will be shocked to hear that it rained.


Noah is praised in the Torah as “a righteous man; blameless in his age” . This is the first time the word righteous is ever used in our sacred text.


We also have the Seven Laws of Noah - referred to as the Noahide Laws which, according to the Talmud, were given by God as a binding set of laws for the "children of Noah" aka all of humanity. Pretty impressive for their namesake.


Yet Noah never made the the cut as a forefather or even an Ushpizin. He’s never been heralded in any authoritative capacity actually.


The re-creator of all humanity isn’t concretized as an archetype of our religion. I’ll call this paradox number 1.


Moving a little closer to home in both time and space; Moody’s has downgraded South Africa’s debt to negative - one notch above junk status. This news both pleases me and upsets me. I’m pleased because this move could be the final straw to push the Government into making some tough decisions; yet I’m also deeply worried that it’s merely a stay of execution before the proverbial ratings trigger is pulled in February 2020. This will be (even more) disastrous for South Africa. Paradox take 2.


Furthermore, I need to state for the record that I love the Springboks and am deeply proud of the team and it’s achievements. However I am also totally embarrassed and quite frankly gatvol of the state of the country and the proverbial and literal mess we find ourselves in currently.


I have moments when I want to pack up and leave but I also desperately want to stay here to live the life I’ve built and love (and, perhaps naively), hope that the Country will magically improve.


Looking back at yesterday and this past shabbos I was reminded how much I genuinely love rugby and watching the springboks play. I desperately wanted to know the score and how we were playing, yet I never once even thought about actually finding a TV set to further my investigation. I was so much happier being at shul with my wife and children, and at the Shabbat lunch table.

Paradox number three perhaps?


During this same Shabbat lunch I sat with 3 foreign tourists from Sweden and France. They relayed to us the story of arriving in Johannesburg on Thursday morning and touring our city centre that same afternoon. It is almost comical that within thirty minutes a group of thugs held them up at gun point and stole their belongings and passports.


Despite being deeply shaken, however, they still seemed upbeat about their forthcoming week in Africa. Why, I asked incredulously?


Because after the mugging, they ran in the opposite direction only to find a savior.


A man accompanied by wife and child convinced them to seek refuge in his car. Not only did he drive our new foreign friends to the nearest police station, the hero bystander also took their details and followed up about their state later that day. This heroic albeit small family were so apologetic to the tourists and were deeply upset by the traumatic scene they had witnessed.


I went from feeling utterly embarrassed to feeling extremely proud of our country in a matter of minutes. The climactic paradox indeed.


But maybe that’s the point. G-d’s spiritual while we are physical. We try to elevate the physical, by doing the spiritual.


You can eat kosher while speaking treif. Or you can speak kosher and eat treif. But the goal is to do Kosher by BOTH.


In the meantime Im just going to embrace the springboks and ignore the rest; paradox and all.




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