The Rabbi was preparing to deliver his sermon for Rosh Hashanah. As he put his things together, leaders from all over the world were congregating only blocks away from his apartment, also getting ready to deliver their speeches at the United Nations. The Rabbi got his things in a bag—his sermon, and the shofar, which he would blow at the synagogue, a ritual for the Jewish new year. This shofar from Africa was special —a long, twisting, curving, horn of an antelope given to him as a gift.
The street outside his apartment building was teeming with police cars, policemen, policewomen, more police cars…you get the picture. If you live in New York near the U.N., you have to put up with heightened security every September when the General Assembly meets. No sooner had he stepped out, a cop stopped him. Now the Rabbi, if you know him, is a very regular looking American, as in white, as in Italian looks, as in a kind-looking face, just your usual-friendly-neighbor looks. The cop pointed to the protruding object in his bag—a twisty tube—and asked.
“What’s this in your bag?”
The Rabbi looked at the cop’s name badge; not a Jewish name, as in Cohen, Rosenberg, and tried to explain the Jewish ritual and the significance of the horn.
“Looks like a weapon,” the cop looked dubiously at the object.
“It’s a spiritual weapon,” the Rabbi quipped jokingly.
What do you think happened? What do you think could have happened? You are right. That is exactly what happened:
“Step aside, Sir,” the cop said. You can imagine the tone of his voice.
He proceeded to grill the Rabbi. And as the Rabbi later told me, ‘grilled me like a hamburger.’ “What did the cop ask you?” I said as I dug into my daal and aaloo gobi at the Indigo restaurant in mid-town Manhattan.
What is your name? Where were you born? Where do you live? What do you do? What is this ‘weapon’?
And what was going through the mind of the interrogator—the cop, that is—as the good Rabbi answered his questions.
I can only imagine:
Cop: Where do you live?
Rabbi: In this building. He points to the building.
Cop: Hmmm! He picked a place close to the United Nations.
Cop: What do you do?
Rabbi: I am a Rabbi.
Cop: Right! No kippah, no beard, Italian looks…and I am supposed to believe he is a Rabbi?
Cop: What is this weapon you are carrying?
Rabbi: A shofar.
Cop: Chauffer? Didn’t he just tell me that he was a Rabbi! This is getting really suspicious.
Cop: I meant what is this thing in your bag?
Rabbi: It’s a horn.
Cop: This ain’t no horn. I know what a horn looks like.
Cop: What do you plan to do with this ‘horn’?
Rabbi: I will blow it at the synagogue…..
Cop: OMG! He is planning to blow up the synagogue.
The Rabbi seeing the look on the cop’s face knew exactly where this was going.
God must have felt bad for the Rabbi, for He sent down His angel. The Rabbi’s neighbor walked out of the building.
“Hi Rabbi,” she called out.
“Can you please tell the officer who I am,” the Rabbi called out.
She of course had no idea what had transpired. ‘He is a Rabbi, I know him, today is Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year…the synagogue…the shofar…a ritual in all the synagogues today….I know him, he is the Rabbi….’
Rabbi made it to the synagogue with the shofar intact, and during services, had the sense of humor and humility to relate this story. My husband Khalid was seated in the congregation, and came home and told me, as I presume many others did. I wonder what cop said when he went home. Maybe an ‘I was after all, doing my duty.’
Moral of the story: Never joke with a policeman.
As the Rabbi re-told this story to me over lunch, I was in stitches over ‘Spiritual Weapon’.
“I tried to be smart,” the Rabbi smiled in good humor.
“Can I write about it?” I asked.