What Was God’s Role in September Eleventh?
Yesterday was the tenth anniversary of the day that changed our nation forever. It doesn’t matter how many times I watch the news reels and listen to the commentaries from that day; the impact 0f September 11, 2001 remains the same for me as do my feelings of shock, sadness, anger, and horror. I don’t think that I’ll ever be able to wrap my head around the enormity of the tragedy.
Though I am someone who always seeks goodness and purpose in life, stunned as I was yesterday on the tenth anniversary of 9/11, and as I am every year at this time, I needed a little help to get to a positive, spiritual place. I sat with my laptop computer propped up on my lap, searching for insights that could once again help me make sense out of this woeful, catastrophic event, while watching hours upon hours of memorial services, interview clips, and the replays of the horror films of the actual event.
Late in the evening, through a Google search I finally arrived at the website Torah from Terror: How Rabbis Responded to the Events of 9/11. This site is a compilation of the sermons delivered by several American Rabbi’s in the immediate days following September 11, 2011. I scanned alphabetically through each of the ninety-two posted sermons looking for something that resonated with me, and kept coming back to the sermon transcript of Rabbi Samuel Gordon from September 17, 2001. After excerpting the transcript, in honor of the the tenth anniversary of September 11th, I’d like to share portions of his compelling words with you.
Why did God allow this to happen? I do not believe that it is a theological question that we seek here, though I know that some may wonder about the meaning of faith and prayer, or about the fairness of God and fate.
We could search for the cause of evil, but we might do better to probe the sense of heroism, courage, and hope that was displayed. In our anger we might lash out at God, but we might instead praise the source of inspiration of all that we saw of nobility and selflessness so evident in New York, Washington D.C,, and the skies over Pennsylvania. God was witnessed among the New York City firefighters, and police, rescue squads, and paramedics. Individual office workers who helped rescue fellow workers and disabled strangers were acting in Godly ways. The passengers on United Flight 93 over the Allegheny Mountains of Pennsylvania were responding to the divine call within them.
Terror was not God at work. Terror was a desecration of God. It was an act of destruction of the sacredness of all life. Each of us has within us a breath of the divine, and to kill anyone of us is to kill the spirit of the Eternal One. God has given us the ability to choose how we manifest that Divine presence in our lives. We can act in Godly ways or we can act in un-Godly ways. The nurturing of life is Godly. The desecration of life is a denial of the Eternal One. Tonight God mourns.
The terrorists are not battling America. They are battling the modern world. Theirs is an intractable hatred. We are the modern world and they wish to remain Medieval. We are the inheritors of The Age of Reason, whereas they fight for the Fanaticism of a different age. The truth is our world is full of ambiguity, but they believe in a world of certainty, of black and white, pure good versus pure evil. We are, to them, pure evil. And they seek to destroy us and our world. We threaten their world, because they see their people longing to share in the dreams of the modern world. They know that this modern culture might seduce theirs. So they try to destroy our centers of world commerce, our military headquarters, and, we assume, they sought to demolish the assembly hall of our democracy.
The modern world is a world of freedom. It is a world of law and justice and tolerance. There is freedom of religion. We are dedicated to free expression of ideas and thoughts, a commitment of equality to all, no matter gender or color, or race, or religion or sexual orientation.
Our nation represents the bravest attempt to insure liberty, equality, and opportunity for all Americans. We must never allow this act of gratuitous evil to drive us away from being the people that God has called us to be. We must heal this nation and we must reawaken in ourselves the spirit of selflessness and dedication. We must choose to not merely go on with life, but to enhance and ennoble our life and our world. Let us know that we are united not in anger and despair, but in compassion and hope.
May the vision of freedom that stirred the generation, that called our ancestors to these shores, continue to inspire us and guide us.
Please visit http://www.torahffromterror.blogspot.com to read the transcript of Rabbi Gordon’s inspiring sermon about September 11th in it’s entirety, or to read the many other sermon transcripts about 9/11 posted on this wonderful website.