From the desk of Sydney, Australia Shliach Rabbi Levi Wolff:
This weekend marks 20 years since 9/11.
“Where were you?” is a sobering question that has been asked to so many of us in relation to the destruction of the Twin Towers in New York City. With a two-decade milestone upon us, it feels necessary to pause and reflect.
Chanie and I had just moved to Sydney with our young family to accept the roles of Rabbi and Rebbetzin of The Central Synagogue. As the eldest children of large families, almost all of our mishpochah were living in the Big Apple; and we knew many who were employed at the World Trade Center.
When the first plane hit, we watched the shocking news unfold in real time on my old Dell desktop. We struggled to process that this was happening in New York City! Like many, we naively believed terrorist attacks were the sad reality for other volatile regions, but not our old neighbourhood. How wrong we were.
In stunned silence we saw smoke billow out of Tower One, and then moments later froze in horror as the second airplane tore into Tower Two, followed by the collapse of both buildings; chaos ensued. Miraculously, none of our immediate relatives were near the Twin Towers at the time.
The world stopped. The world was in pain. The world mourned. The mightiest superpower had been hit at its core. Thousands of innocent lives were taken, and millions more were scarred.
The age of innocence was over. Until then, we had largely felt protected, we felt safe, we didn’t question our security.
The question, “Where were you?” should not merely be an account of time and place – it is so much more and begs the follow up enquiry: “Where are you?”
The great Chasidic master, Reb Shneur Zalman of Liadi explained how in the story of Creation, when Adam was asked by G d, ‘Ayekah’ – Where are you? It could not have just been a geographical question, for G d obviously knew where Adam was ‘pinned’ on the map.
Ayekah – explained Reb Shneur Zalman – was G-d asking, “Where are you in your life?” It is a constant, ongoing question – a perpetual call to every human being. What have you accomplished on the path to fulfil your life’s mission?
Twenty years later, September 11th is still such an emotional date. Let’s not merely reminisce and ask, ‘Where were we?’ Rather, let’s reflect two decades later and analyse our individual evolution: Where are we now?
After such a tumultuous year, having just experienced Rosh Hashanah, now is the perfect time to pose the existential question: Where do I want to be?
May these pensive and reflective Days of Awe, between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, inspire us all to search our souls to both conceive and actualise the answer!
Wishing you a meaningful Shabbat Shuva, G’mar Chatima Tova and may you be sealed in the Book of Life!