As I write this blog, the sun is streaming through the windows of my office, the sky is beautifully blue, and outside it is “room temperature”, as an old friend of mine used to say. Yet the beauty of the day is in dissonance with my perception of the world today. It is September 11, and I have found myself returning to a day, which started just as perfectly but ended very differently eleven years ago.
It is interesting to me that September 11 of this year falls in the week prior to the holiday of my ancestors, Rosh Hashanah. For many, Rosh Hashanah begins a period of reflection and atonement for actions of the past year, continuing through the Ten Days of Awe, which conclude with Yom Kippur. Even in the joy and excitement of the beginning of a year, Rosh Hashanah stops us in our tracks and asks us to consider, as we start afresh, our shortcomings and misdeeds. Standing before our maker, community, and ourselves on the cusp of this new year, we ask: When did we miss the mark? When did we do less than we could have?
With the anniversary of that tragic day eleven years ago falling so close to Rosh Hashanah, I’ve noticed that that many of my friends on Facebook – of all different faiths and beliefs – are today asking those same questions. What have we done to make the world a better place than it was those years ago? How have I made a difference? Am I a better friend? Neighbor? Partner? Have I done something to honor the legacy and sacrifice of those who have come and gone before me?
Being reflective and introspective is important. Indeed, as the writer Yvonne Woon said, “Sometimes, you have to look back in order to understand the things that lie ahead.” But then, if we are to be able to answer the questions we pose differently next year, we must move to action. We must, with intention, decide how we will leave the world a different place and how we’ll honor those who gave – so that when we ask, did we do less than we could have, we might say – you know, this year, I did better.
Eleven years ago, our world – our lives – were broken in a way many of us hadn’t experienced before. And since then, we have experienced a good deal of chaos and discord, selfish and outrageous actions, hostile political discourse and threats to our rights. Breaks perhaps as big as the one we suffered on 9/11. So, perhaps our job – everyone’s job – is to try to put the pieces back together. To make things whole again and heal the world. To practice tikkun olam. Fixing the world doesn’t necessarily mean finding the pieces and putting them back together. Maybe we’re the pieces. Maybe, what we’re supposed to do is come together and create change. That will be my intention this year.
So to you, my friends, I say, may we seek well and be blessed to know a world changed, reaching toward perfection. And to those who observe this holy day, Shana Tova Umetukah — may we all have a good and sweet year.
Barbara Heisler, Executive Director