9/11 2007: "My Heart is in the East"
© Rabbi Menachem Creditor
Today is not like any other day. And yet, on the day before Rosh HaShannah it's hard to find someone whose eyes are pained like mine today, here in Berkeley, CA. I spoke last night to a sweet group of people of my memories of being in Manhattan 6 years ago today, my family's struggle to find each other, the baby beginning to grow within my wife, and people connected, but perhaps more to the person speaking than to the world that had changed for us all.
And every year the experience changes. There isn't liturgy. I've lit candles before, sung songs, felt the power of Tisha Be'Av creep into this universal day, recognize terrifying similarities between today and the binding of Isaac narrative, and today I sit even further away than every before from the place that, as my father has put it, will forever define the generations alive today.
What can we do today to make today different? Should today be different?
Six years ago, on a beautiful Tuesday morning I was going downstairs to repark my car during a Midrash class at JTS. That's when I found out. I thought it was a bad joke. I raced upstairs after hearing the news on my car's radio, ran into the National Camp Ramah offices, where scene after scene replayed online. I ran back to class and informed my teacher Rabbi Alan Kensky who was, I believe, as unsure as me as to what to do. He quietly told the story of his teacher Rabbi Shaul Lieberman z"l, who, upon hearing of the murder of a young rabbinical student by a terrorist in Israel told his student: "We learn. Just like we have been. If we stop, they've won. They can't stop us from being who we are." That response was powerful, but outmatched by the circumstances.
Then the entire city broke. Every person broke. Our city broke beneath and all around us.
It's not that heroes weren't born that day, that emergency responders didn't bring everything they were. All that is true, but what remains broken is a sense of safety we once had. The world into which my children have been born is a very different place than the one I inherited. And I remain scared. I sit in Berkeley, CA, and I wonder about the world whose birth we celebrate tomorrow.
Perhaps that's what today must become. A day of mindfulness, of wondering, of sensing the urgent needs of the world and working on healing.
May we never have a day like that, ever again.
Please, God. Never again.