Like most people, I can tell you exactly where I was when I heard the news on September 11, 2001. Our school teacher told us there was a hijacking and that airplanes had crashed into the Twin Towers. In my youthful naiveté, it was hard for me to fathom how people can be so evil as to turn passenger jets into weapons of death. It was an uncomfortable and demoralizing thought. One I still think of often.
This year, 9/11 coincides with the Jewish New Year holiday of Rosh Hashanah which begins on the eve of September 9 and continues until sundown on September 11. (The Jewish holidays follow a unique lunar/solar calendar, hence each year they occur on a different day on the Gregorian calendar).
The universal message of Rosh Hashanah reminds us that any one single person can improve the whole world. This is the antidote to the outrageous evil that was unleashed on September 11, and serves as a preventative for the future.
Rosh Hashanah commemorates Creation. More specifically, it commemorates the creation of Adam, the first man and ancestor of all human beings. As the Bible records, during six days G-d created minerals, plant life, animals, the solar system and, finally, late on the sixth day, the final “working day” before the day of rest on the seventh, He formed the Human Being, Adam.
He was created alone.
Planets, plants, and animals all need many of their kind to fulfill their purpose. Only us human beings, each individually have, within our unique selves, the power to fulfill our purpose and make a profound impact and change the world around us for the good.
It is only the human being who G-d granted the free choice to do that. Only the human being, created alone, is the force that can and must bring the rest of creation to its fulfillment.
The Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, taught that this is the foundation of our faith; the belief that each one of us has it within his or her power, regardless of wealth or position, to transform this world into a better place. To be a force for good rather than evil.
As we honor the memories of those who perished in the terror attacks on September 11, and pray for the brave men and women of the US Armed Forces defending our freedoms, let us take to heart and act upon this valuable lesson. If so few individuals could cause such destruction and loss, all it takes is one individual to perpetuate goodness; causing a ripple effect to change the entire world for good.
No need to look around for volunteers. You and I have been nominated to accomplish this by dint of our existence.
On Rosh Hashanah G-d judges not only the Jewish people, but all mankind, and indeed all of His creations. As I pray this year, and blow the Shofar, I will think of all my fellow citizens across the great state of South Dakota, to be inscribed and sealed in the book of life for a year of health, happiness, peace and prosperity.
Rabbi Mendel Alperowitz
Serving the spiritual needs of the South Dakota Jewish community. Based in Sioux Falls and travels the state.