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Rebbetzin Jungreis was once telling her personal story of survival during
the Holocaust, recalling how she witnessed the downward spiral of events
that ultimately led to the deportations and the concentration camps. She
told of how the Nazis came for the Jews and how all their material
possessions were stripped of them. She added that as she was recounting
this, a young girl in the audience once raised her hand and asked her the
following, innocent question: but Rebbetzin, where were the police?
Sometimes news, whether it is a Yankee or Jets (actually, not the Jets)
postseason score, or something more sinister, begins to trickle through
the carefully constructed web of disconnect from the world we create and
need on Shabbos. This past Shabbos was unfortunately just one of those
times, eerily akin to when something terrible happens in Israel. The
horrifying news of the assassination of two NYPD officers while sitting in
their patrol car, was enough to send shockwaves of emotion reverberating
throughout our city and country. I watched a video yesterday of Officer
Lius family approaching, and then breaking down at the makeshift
memorial site - adorned with a Menorah in the background - and thought
to myself how it is literally unbelievable that such a thing has actually
happened. By all accounts, Officers Ramos and Liu were exemplars of
what it means to truly be NYs Finest. They represent the frontlines of the
34,000 men and women who risk their lives to ensure that our society is
safe, protected, and secure.
Like any sensible people, we here sit, a week later, still stunned and
angered at the senseless and cowardly way in which these two officers
were gunned down. However, to be honest, we as Jews owe the NYPD an
even greater sense of solidarity, respect, and sympathy. If you can walk by
the officers also sitting in their squad cars or standing watch outside our
Shul, the Jewish Center, and the Spanish Portuguese Synagogue, and not
stop to thank them, there is something lacking in ones Hakarat ha-Tov

and also in their sense of history. In Rebbetzin Jungreis story, the answer
to the little girl that we all know was that the police were not there
protecting, but rather perpetrating the outrage, burning Shuls rather than
guarding them. We are singularly privileged, with Shevach and Hodaah to
God, that we here in NYC have been able to flourish like no other Diaspora
community in history, and that our debt of gratitude to the NYPD must
reflect that.
Our Parsha contains perhaps the most emotionally jarring and human
moment of the entire Torah. The time has come for Yosef to reveal himself
to his brothers, and in an outpouring of emotion, Yosef does so with the
words Ani Yosef - I am Yosef! The brothers cannot respond, and thus
Yosef tells them to come closer, as he says again, I am Yosef, your brother!
Of course, it is natural that this kind of revelation would stun the brothers.
It is natural that Yosef, in the garb and guise of Egyptian royalty, would
have to repeat himself. But with his characteristic brilliance, Rabbi
Norman Lamm detects a deeper story, a subtext beneath Yosefs doubled
We can point out that the first time Yosef reveals himself, he announces
Ani Yosef - haOd Avi Chai - I am Yosef, is my father still alive? After his
brothers stunned silence, he makes a subtle change. The second time he
says: Ani Yosef Achichem - asher machartem oti mitzrayma - I am Yosef
your brother, whom you sold to Egypt!
What accounts for the change is Yosefs revelation? Why does Yosef shift
the message? Rabbi Lamm explains that Yosef is actually teaching us that
there are two ways in which we Jews speak - there is in-house speaking,
and there is the way in which we address the world. To our brother and
sister Jews around the world, the way in which we express ourselves must
always be one of solidarity, the bonds of peoplehood and Achdut, unity.
Ani Yosef - ha-Od Avi Chai - my father is also our father. Despite our
considerable differences, we are still the Jewish people and ultimately

share the same destiny and legacy. As people like the Chaz and Glen
Richter can tell you, it is not for naught that one of the rallying cries for
Jews here in NYC during the days of SSSJ was Od Avinu Chai! When
thinking about our brothers and sisters behind the iron curtain, risking
arrest, protesting in the streets, and self-sacrificing for Jews who on the
surface could not be more different, the realization that we are of the same
family galvanized comfortable Jews in Manhattan to valiant, honorable,
and powerful action - speaking truth to power.
On the other hand, there is a way in which we express ourselves to the
world, and that is Ani Yosef - asher machartem oti - I am Yosef, whom
you have sold to Egypt. In Rabbi Lamms formulation:
In presenting ourselves to the non-Jewish world, we can
never ignore the past. Healthy and reasonable relationships
cannot be established by an act of transcendental ignorance.
Our people is steeped in memories. We are a people that sanctifies memories. We can no more let the world forget what it did
to us, than we can ourselves forget.
Derrida once said that the Jew is the eternal other. In every society, once
all the other divisions are set apart, we have for thousands of years stuck
out like a sore thumb. The brothers came down to Egypt and must have
felt uniquely singled out as Hebrews for the viziers opprobrium and
persecution. More than anyone else, they were victimized and could
envision a future during the famine in which they would continue to suffer
more than anyone else. As providence would have it, there was also a Jew
- their brother - in a place of immense power, and within months, the
brothers were residing in security in Goshen, comfortably insulated from
the crisis descending upon Egypt. One only need to turn to the various
Midrashim cited by R. Menachem Mendel Kasher in his monumental
work Torah Sheleimah on these verses to see that the privileged position
of the Jews in Egypt under Yosef played a significant role in allowing the

Egyptians to forget their victimisation and even opened the door for future
It is difficult to feel like a victim when one lives in security, relative wealth,
and freedom - in fact, it might even compel the more ignorant of the
masses to equate Jews with being the oppressor, rather than a fellow
victim. Again, R. Lamm puts it succinctly, quoting an article in New York
Magazine from 1974:
The Holocaust, six million murdered Jews,
has as much meaning to most Americans as visions
of the Japanese as pilots diving
towards Pearl Harbor. Sleep and rain wash
away all things -- the Jews here are no longer
victims One does not instinctively feel
sorry for his dentist or for the chairman of CBS

Beside the shock, the outrage, and the depression caused by the murder of
Officers Ramos and Liu, there is another emotional atmosphere pulsing
through New York. Although the seeds were planted this summer in
Ferguson, Missouri, the crescendo occurred with the choking death of Eric
Garner. When it came to Ferguson, I had no idea what to feel. Too many
unknowns and a generally toxic atmosphere barred any meaningful
reaction. Finally, the co-option of the situation by the ignorant
anti-Zionist BDS set caused me to disengage completely.
However, it was impossible to disengage after watching the videotape
from Staten Island. Anyone who has been caught under a pile of people,
anyone who has swam too deep underwater had to be viscerally
traumatized by watching it. Furthermore, the fact that it was done by
those who we trust to protect us - and with complete impunity - was
jarring and terrifying. As many sensitive commentators, notably Ta-Nehisi
Coates of The Atlantic, pointed out - it is possible, in fact necessary for

thinking people to be both outraged and horrified by the murder of the

two officers and to recognize that there are areas in need of reform in the
worlds largest police force.
To be honest, as a white, a completely pareve-looking and physically
unimposing person, I will never be able to understand the victimhood that
those in the African-American community speak of. It is other, it is
outside the purview of my experience. But I, we, also occupy another
valence along with our hard-earned high station in life. We are Jews,
Asher machartem oti bmitzrayim - just as you find Jews occupying the
highest positions of power - the Yosefs, you also find Jews at the forefront
of those who speak to that power - the Yehudas, speaking up for
their brothers who are falsely accused, falsely incarcerated, and
unjustifiably persecuted. Too often nowadays, when Jews feel
compelled to speak up for the powerless and the oppressed, they do it out
of embarrassment, out of a paternalism, and out of a complete shirking of
their true Jewish identity. M.J. Rosenberg, an activist in the 70s,
presidential advisor in the 90s and an all-around complicated Jew, put it
beautifully in a provocative essay he wrote in the 60s:
The leftist Jewish student scrapes along ashamed of his identity, and
yet obsessed with it. He goes so far as to join black nationalist
organizations, not as a Jew, but as a white. He does not and will not
understand that his relevance is as a Jew, a fellow victim The Jew can be
an ally to [these movements] and he should be. But first he must find
himself. He must realize that his own struggle for liberation is a
continuing one, that he also has much to fear and also much to take pride
in. The miracle of Israel, a national liberation deferred for two thousand
years, should be his inspiration.
It is possible to occupy both mindsets - Modern Orthodox Jews should be
experts at this. We can thank Hashem and his messengers in Blue that
allow us the ability to gather safely on Shabbat and worship him, a

measure of Od Avinu Chai, fully cognizant of the fact that there are
Shuls in France with bullet-holes through the windows as we speak, that
there are Kindergartens in Israel surrounded by concrete blast walls; We
can also join with the other and act, with Sechel and wisdom for justice
under the banner of Asher Machartem oti Mitzrayma. We know what it
is to feel both empowered and powerless and with the guidance of the
Torah, we can learn to navigate that tension gracefully. Things neednt be
black and white for us. We are better and more sophisticated than that.
When learning of the Talmudic principle of Mosif vHoleich - that Beit
Hillel averr we must light the candles of Hanukkah in ascending order,
one of my more perceptive students asked why we then simply stop after
the eighth night, going from a full blaze of the candles to only return to the
deep darkness of the winter on the following night. I told her that the holy
Hassidic master, the Sfas Emes, was sensitive to the same question. He
harkened back to the promise of God to Abraham that his offspring would
be like the stars in the sky, a theme echoed in Yosefs dreams which
ultimately led to our Parshas confrontation. The message was that each
Jew - but a mere star in the infinite darkness of the firmament - has no
ability to fully brighten that darkness. That darkness is a lurking,
sometimes depressing fact. Despite this, Lo alekha hamelacha ligmor,
vlo atah ben horin lhibatel [translate] - we have as Jews a job to do - we
must both recognize the darkness that is this world, and also our job as
Jews to brighten it with our lives of Torah, Mishpat & Shalom. And this is
the message of the 9th night - the continuing nights of Hannukah in which
we recall the blaze of those holy lights and our mission to bring them out
in our own lives and the world around us until the final redemption.
Shabbat Shalom.