Sunday, September 11, 2011

September 11, 2001--Ten Years Later

Many of you who know me know that I am someone who does not watch the news on a regular basis. It's difficult for me to absorb all of the sadness, the despair, the cruelty, the destruction, and the suffering that occur in our world on a regular basis. I DO care about the world around me, and I like to know what's going on; but it's hard to watch these terrible things happen, knowing there is so much behind the madness that I could will understand and so little I can really do to help. Whenever I hear about the terrible events that occur in the world, I'm forced to question the very core my belief system, that God and prayer and time and the goodness of humankind can solve any problem. Though I know it's both perfectly healthy and very Jewish to be confused about such beliefs, it's uncomfortable to be shaken up in this way, especially when I have to help others through their own confusion. I know I don't need to have all the answers and I know that I actually bring some comfort to people when I can admit that I'm just as confused about my beliefs as they are. We're all human beings, after all. But still, I want to help the people around me believe as strongly as I do that the world makes sense, and that God, prayer, time and the goodness of humankind really can make this world a better place.

Being in New York City on September 11, 2011--10 years after our country was shaken and devastated in a way none of us have ever experienced--feels so different than any other anniversary of that terrible day. There have been threats of another terrorist attack on the city at some point this weekend/week, and those who were here 10 years ago are noticeably frightened. At my voice lesson on Friday in Midtown Manhattan, my teacher turned around to the window with every siren that went by. I couldn't help but see the fear in her eyes and hear the sighs of both worry and relief as the sirens faded. As I drove to New Jersey with friends yesterday, cars and trucks were being pulled over and searched as they made their way into and out of the city. All weekend New Yorkers on the streets have seemed to be more concerned than normal about the people and packages on the streets around them. Everyone is nervous that someone might happen--everyone knows how easily something COULD happen.

Last week's Torah portion, Ki Teitze, teaches us that we can not be indifferent to the world around us. We need to think of ourselves, of course, but we also need to care for the simplest beings--human, land and animal--all around us. In this week's Torah portion, Ki Tavo, we are taught what to do when we enter the promised land of Israel and how we can appropriately thank God for arriving safely to this place. Today, I find myself caught between the messages of the 2 portions: the nagging realization that I can not be indifferent to--or simply forget--the upsetting events that shake me, along with the reminder to be thankful to God for this land I am blessed to live in. I am thinking also of the many deeds of lovingkindness that occur out of events as tragic as 9/11. Perhaps it is the perfect timing of these two Torah portions with this important anniversary that moves me to see these honorable acts of humanity all the more clearly and to pay more attention to everything that surrounds me.

Yes, there is sadness and destruction. Yes, there is hurt and desperation. No, I can not fix everything. But I can do something, many things, to work towards peace in whatever large or small ways I can. I hold this to be true. THIS I can preach and believe in with unwavering faith.

As we drove home from New Jersey to Astoria last night, my friends and I couldn't help but notice the pillars of light that shine nightly where the towers once stood. We rode past in a moment of silence, thinking of how all of us and our country have changed since that painful day 10 years ago. I was struck by the images of the lights coming out of the darkness--the lights of hope, of faith, of perseverance. I pray that each of us can resemble those lights, allowing the horrific events of 10 years ago to inspire us to shine ever more brightly, to see the goodness that arises even in the worst of times, and to do what we can to build a more peaceful world.

May we remember always.

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