Union for Reform Judaism Member Congregation


The defining moment. . .  It is the defining moment of Joseph’s life. Yes, he has come through life-altering moments before.  Gifted with a tunic by his father.  Thrown into a pit by his brothers.  Sold as a slave to the Midianites, also by his brothers. And once in Egypt, refusing to give in to the seduction of Potiphar’s wife.  Arrested anyway, and thrown into prison.  “Discovered” as a prescient interpreter of dreams.  A meteoric rise to power within the Egyptian court, until he became second only to the Pharaoh himself. . .   But this, now, is the most defining moment of all. At this moment, he stands before his brothers after all these years, and they do not recognize him.  After a series of tests, they prove themselves more mature and compassionate. They speak with love and concern about their father, and their youngest brother Benjamin, and the guilt they still carry about the wrong they did to him.  This is the defining moment, and Joseph can longer contain himself. He sends the Egyptian courtiers away, and cries openly to them. “I am Joseph. Is my father still alive?” Dumbfounded, his brothers do not understand. “Come closer toward me. I am Joseph your brother. . . Do not be afraid. . .”

Rapprochement. . . After this long estrangement, and probably a good deal of bitterness as well, Joseph takes the step toward rapprochement. “I am Joseph, your brother.” “Your brother….” It was as though he was reminding them, “I am not a stranger. I am your brother. I am your family. We should be on the same side. We’re all in this together. Come closer toward me. I am Joseph, your brother.”

Our Brothers. . .    It would seem at this moment that we as New Yorkers are reeling from pillar to post. A terrible decision from a Grand Jury and the wrongful death of a husband and father, one piece in a pattern that has highlighted the racial divide in this country.  We took to the streets in demonstrations, protests, anger, but by and large, peaceful. Clearly there are issues that divide us, and issues regarding relationships between the Police Department and the African American community. But now, two police officers, one Hispanic, one Asian, one a dad, one a new husband, wantonly and brutally assassinated simply because they were who they were. And just as Eric Garner was our brother, Officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos were our brothers.

Come Closer. . .  We are all New Yorkers. All of us have a stake in what happens here. We will have to figure out a way to talk and to listen to each other; to draw each other closer, as Joseph drew his brothers back toward him. Ultimately, we are part of the same family, and we are all in this together. If we let fear and mistrust, resentment and ill will take over, we will drive each other further away, and lose the chance to envision a better future together. We have to come together. We have to cry, and mourn, express our anger and frustration. But ultimately we have to work together to develop ideas, in the mutual aspiration of increased understanding and a better way to live. We are brothers and sisters of the same human family, and the very up-close-and-personal environment of our city. “I am Joseph. Come closer toward me. I am Joseph, your brother. Do not be afraid….”