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An Ode to Remaining Broken: In a New York State of Mind

© 2007 Rabbi Menachem Creditor

What can you possibly do when the words “New York” can bring you to both your warmest childhood memories and to your hardest moment of life?

Cars lined up in the street all the way down Broadway, people aching to give blood, give anything. No cell phone reception. Suddenly it’s 9/11, and you’re simply never going to be again who you were just this morning. This incredible pain. If you were “there” the shattered soul you own can break down looking at a policeman’s badge, a fireman’s hat, a person’s face, a lost father’s picture held by a child.

How quickly we forget, and how hard it is to find anyone who understands. YouTube is full of the videos from “The Concert for New York,” full of the faces of the audience, still raw and reeling from rupture. Even Billy Joel seems to be working hard to get back into his New York State of Mind. The music is a strained roar – a conscious refusal to die.

Here I sit in Berkeley on November 18, 2007 – and I’m suddenly back in Manhattan on September 11, 2001, scared, wondering where my wife is. Praying my sister is okay. Wondering what happened to the world. Smelling the smoke. Wishing it weren’t so. Leading Mincha and screaming the “blessing against enemies” so hard it hurt.

There are moments in which comfort comes. But there are also moments that are inescapable, where aloneness permeates every pore. The broken city resonates in mythic proportion – and living in the moment means not feeling the distance of time or space, re-entering the encounter and breaking, willing or not.

Seeing the stained sky, flying over Ground Zero and looking into the pit – in perhaps the same way that the birth of a child is an eternal moment, all these experiences are eternal.

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Sometimes, it isn't about nuance.
Sometimes it just comes down to facing the storm,
calling God out,
standing at the center of a whirlwind
holding your ground.

No cathedral is immune to agony,
no soul impervious to life itself no nation purely noble.
If it were any other way,
there would be no need for cathedrals
in the first place.

Kneel,  stand,  sit,  rise up.

To kneel is
to submit  to lower oneself  to step down  to pause.
To kneel is to call attention  to touch the Earth's face to listen to those  whose blood saturates  the very roots of our story.
To kneel is to step aside  to step outside  to invite others to come closer  to remember.
To kneel is not to stand not to stand not to stand idly by.
Speak your truth,
God damn it.

That's what God wants most of all.

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