I am from New York, but I wasn’t living in New York City thirteen years ago, on that blue September day when the towers fell. I remember the confusion upon hearing the headlines, the incredulity, and the panic of cell phones not working as I tried to reach my mom, who worked two blocks away from the World Trade Center. My mom was safe. But I mourn today together with so many of you, together with our country, for all that was lost on that day.
Why did God create humanity from a single person, our sages wonder? What is the meaning of that story? In order to teach us, our sages explain, that one who destroys a single life destroys an entire world.
September 11th is not a uniquely Jewish day of mourning, but we can mourn this day as Jews. ReformJudaism.org has collected prayers for 9/11, including this prayer if you are remembering a loved one today. Tomorrow night, we will include the victims of 9/11 when we say Mourner’s Kaddish at Shabbat services. To me, one of the most meaningful ways of honoring this anniversary is by listening to some of the stories recorded by StoryCorps and the National September 11 Memorial Museum. The stories always remind me how profound our sages’ insight is: each of these lives, truly, represents a lost world.
This month of Elul, leading up the High Holidays, has always been a season of reflection for our people. Today, as our country mourns this anniversary and prepares to respond to the current threat of terror in our world, Elul feels especially poignant. One custom of Elul is to reach out to someone you haven’t talked to in too long, to wish them a Shana Tova, and repair a relationship that might be strained, or maybe just a little bit neglected. 9/11 always feels to me like a good reminder to make one of those calls.
With prayers for peace and wholeness,
Rabbi Beth Kalisch