This morning I participated in a memorial service at the fire house in Tappan. Police officers, firefighters, and emergency medical technicians from around our community came to give honor to the fallen. Equally as important to the remembrance of the deceased, however, was the honor given to those who were present in the tragedy’s aftermath: Construction workers who came into the city to dig through the rubble for survivors; civil servants who took extra shifts just to serve water to the weary; clergy who trekked across the country to stand beside others who so clearly needed help finding the words to a prayer.
This week’s parasha, Ki Tavo, details the blessings we realize as a consequence of living according to God’s commandments, and the curses we experience in disregarding the same. Torah teaches us that to live in a constant state of dread is a curse. We should not be constantly looking over our shoulder, worrying about what tragedy will befall us next. That is the life of the cursed. We can, however, choose to live life as first responders. We can choose a life of action, a life of courage, a life of readiness to step into the breach. We can choose to know our neighbors and to express our love for them through our deeds. We can confront hatred with kindness, fanaticism with moderation, fear with hope. In so doing, we will go to sleep at night with clear consciences and awaken to mornings of possibility, productivity and hope. We can revisit those early post-9/11 days, recommit ourselves with determination and vigilance in the battle against all forms of extremism, and give gratitude for the freedoms we have as Americans.
May God bless America, may God bless the souls of those we remember this day, and may God bless us with the wisdom to recognize the blessings that accompany us daily.
Rabbi Craig Scheff