Joseph’s Tears: Praying for a New Way


Vayigash elav Yehuda – And Yehuda approached Yosef.” After years of estrangement, at last in our Torah, brothers are reunited. In the narrative of Joseph reconciling with his brothers, he weeps seven times. His heart breaks open and his tears flow, smoothing over rough edges like seawater on stones.

As the door closes on 2014, and as we look back over the past year, tears fall for those lives taken by violence and senseless hatred. We pray that in the year ahead, the heart of humanity can open wide to walk a path of empathy, compassion and peace.

This past week, we wept for New York City police officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu, heartlessly murdered as they served and protected the community. We wept for their families and for their dreams. I want to share the words spoken by Rabbi Avi Weiss of the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale as he stood with the New York Police Department this past week to express support and to pray with them.

“In this time of tragic loss for the NYPD and all New Yorkers, we stand here with you. You, the New York Police Department, are New York City’s finest – a racially diverse force. Every day, you risk your lives for us. You protect our synagogues, our churches, our mosques, our institutions, our businesses, our homes – for this and much more we are eternally grateful. We mourn with you and gather in prayer for Officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu. We can never understand the profound grief of the families and the larger family of the NYPD, but with great empathy we declare: your pain is our pain, your suffering is our suffering. . . We pray for peace for our entire city. We pray for the bereaved families. We pray that when issues arise, they be worked out peacefully and constructively, without hatred or incitement – always remembering that we must be careful with our words.”

Here, too, in Philadelphia, we are profoundly grateful for the law enforcement officers and all those who risk their lives each day to protect us in our homes, our synagogue and throughout our city.

Looking back over the past year, our tears fall for all lives callously taken and disregarded. Looking forward, we pray for peace. We commit to the work it will take to build a world where all human lives are valued. A world where each person is seen and known as a reflection of God.