11 Cheshvan 5781 / Thursday, October 29, 2020 | Torah Reading: Lech Lecha
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Rabbi Friedman? This is the FBI    

Rabbi Friedman? This is the FBI

When the FBI approached Rabbi Cary Friedman for help with a very special project they picked the perfect candidate. Little did they know Rabbi Cary Friedman has a thing for...


When the FBI approached Rabbi Cary Friedman for help with a very special project they picked the perfect candidate.  Little did they know Rabbi Cary Friedman has a thing for heroes.  As a child he lived vicariously through the Batman and his right-hand man Robin, while learning Torah at yeshiva.  And as a pulpit rabbi and high school teacher he brings the heroes of the Torah to life for his students.  Drawing upon his experiences as a rabbi, prison chaplain, and his love of crime fighters - both fictional and real life - he created Spiritual Survival for Law Enforcement.  This enormously successful text - the fifth work on Torah penned by the Rabbi - is being used by law enforcement agencies in every state in the Union, by the Border Patrol, and in the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia.
An FBI agent heard Rabbi Friedman speak to a diverse audience and appreciated the deft manner in which the Rabbi shared Torah concepts in a way that could resonate with just about anyone.  It turns out the FBI was looking for course material to develop the spiritual health of their agents and wondered if Rabbi Friedman could help them to address this special concern, with the proviso that the material be top caliber and  universal enough to appeal to agents from all walks of life.  They had tried representatives from other religions but they seemed to be focused on dogma too specific for the broad spectrum of trainees coming through Quantico.  Spiritual Survival is the fruit of Rabbi Friedman’s labors.  He explains, “I’m trying to take the ideas that I have from Torah and to identify certain universal, fundamental, transcendent truths and share them and present them in a way that everybody can use them; they can integrate them into whatever it is that they believe.”  The work has been especially well received by law enforcement chaplains. “I had a priest, very well-known in the law enforcement world, who said to me, ‘You know, everything in this book, I support, I subscribe to. This really defines the way I look at law enforcement chaplaincy. I haven’t always been able to find it within my own faith and tradition, the ideas that would support this, and here it is. And I could see where it comes from your Judaism.’”
Utilizing the Seven Universal Commandments and other wisdom from the Torah, Rabbi Friedman constructs a new lens through which officers can view their often grim and potentially debilitating experiences as first responders. “The Torah has things to say about the universal human condition, the nature of the human psyche and the human mind and heart and soul, and this is what I’m sharing.”  Burn out can occur for even the toughest and most skilled officers if they don’t have a rock solid and accurate way to view the harsh realities upon which they must be hyper-focused in order to solve and prevent crimes.  Rabbi explains, “The wicked of this world serve an important function: They provide the resistance against which we struggle and strive in order to refine and elevate ourselves.”  Without an understanding of free will, why we have it, and what happens when we misuse it, officers are left feeling that they are the alone in their pursuit to bring justice to the world.  Knowing that there is a God who holds people accountable here and now and ultimately in the World to Come can be a gigantic relief - and a source of strength -  for these dedicated people.  
One of the Seven Universal Commandments is to pursue justice, to establish courts of law.  The officer, as Rabbi Friedman puts it, “...serves as the human manifestation in this world of fear-of-God that motivates people - strongly!- to behave.”  How many officers know that they are fulfilling a mitzvah - a commandment - every time they start the engine of that patrol car?  This manual teaches officers to acknowledge they are performing a commandment, thus enabling them to connect with Hashem, “...if they are aware of it, they have this real deep sense of connection to God and psychologically and mystically they are able to cash in on it and to enjoy it.”  These are just a few of many pragmatic yet profound strategies in this unique safety manual for the soul.    
Spiritual Survival is being utilized by thousands of law enforcement officers across this country.  Rabbi Friedman has helped take the Seven Universal Commandments make a giant leap from a person by person application to a profound public application at the hands of law enforcement.  This is none other than Tikkun Olam, our job here on earth as Torah believers.     
Here in Atlanta as I write this, two police officers have returned to their Creator.  They were ambushed and murdered on January 15th, 2008.  They paid the ultimate price for Atlantans, Americans, and ultimately for us all.  Because of their love of justice and fearless spirits the rest us are able to get through the day with less worry, knowing all we need to do is pick up the phone and ask for help - and they’ll reach us in just a few minutes to put themselves between us and the bad guys.  This is dedicated to those officers and to their families who are going to bed tonight with swollen eyes and broken hearts.  Let’s pray for Officer Ricky Bryant, Jr. aged 26 and for Officer Eric Barker aged 33.  They have each left behind wives and four children.  May Hashem help their families and our community to heal from this wound.  And please Hashem, help all law enforcement officers as they put themselves in danger each day to enforce Your laws for us and to repair the world.

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