Published November 2018
ANSWER THE CALL!!
During the Chanukah season, we read the story of Joseph in the Bible. At the end of the narrative, Joseph sees that his brothers have really changed and repented. When Joseph sees his brother Judah come forward and offer himself in exchange for his younger brother, he cries out: “I am Joseph your brother.” The brothers then fall into each other’s arms and they weep.
Then the Bible tells us: “The sound of Joseph’s crying reached the palace and the Pharaoh heard it.” On this verse the Sages offer an insightful comment. They note that when Joseph – the Prime Minister of Egypt – cried, the Pharaoh heard. What about all those years when Joseph was a slave in the royal court? He must have cried many times and no one paid any attention to his sobbing. He was arrested and falsely accused and no one heard his crying. He was a young Hebrew in a strange and hostile land and no one paid any attention to his anguish.
This rabbinic commentary contains an important insight into what it means to be a human being. When political figures, stars or celebrities say something we tend to pay attention. However, the mark of a good person is to hear the cry of someone who is in need and answer, not because a person in power has spoken but because a person in pain has pleaded for help. That’s what police officers do everyday. That’s what the ancient Maccabees did. That’s what all of us need to do.
Rabbi Alvin Kass
Chief Chaplain of the NYPD