Nine Eleven & Seven Ten
9-11, ’01 is a date which entered history alongside July 4, ’76 and Dec. 7, ’41 as milestones in the long struggle of the American people to achieve independence and freedom from tyranny for themselves and the rest of the world.
7-10, ’49 is an even more important date for the Jewish people. It refers to the tenth day of the seventh month of the Hebrew calendar and designates the first Yom Kippur in the 2449th year of the world since creation.
What do these two dates, more than three millennia apart, have in common?
9-11 woke up the free world to the awful threat posed by the axis of evil and the need to eradicate that evil even if it meant going to war.
7-10 was the day when the battle of the Jewish People against another sort of evil was crowned with victory as G-d declared that He had forgiven them for their betrayal in worshiping the golden calf.
This day was divinely determined as the Yom Kippur Day of Atonement on which Jews would each year fast, repent their sins and pray for forgiveness. In the time of the Holy Temple it was also a day of special sacrifices and rituals for the purpose of achieving such atonement.
There is an important parallel between these two dates and the battles they represent. As Jews who view all of history as a divinely directed scenario, we perceive every event – the "days of infamy" from Pearl Harbor to Twin Towers and religious terrorism from Inquisition to Intifada – as heavenly alarms to arouse us from our slumbers and eradicate the evil that lurks within our hearts. The awful form which that alarm takes is a reflection of our own shortcomings so that we may be aware of where we have gone wrong. The great thinkers of the Torah world have applied this theme to the broad scope of Jewish history and the experience of all Mankind.
It may therefore be fair to speculate that the terror which shocked America and the world on 9-11 is a magnified reflection of the terror which exists in the civilized world and the universal indifference which individuals and governments display towards it. There is no need to seek this terror only in the robberies and murders which form a blot on all societies. Is the rampant abuse of spouses and children not a form of terror? Is drunken and reckless driving which claim more lives than the attacks of terrorists not a form of terror?
And is condemning the self-defense actions of a Jewish State fighting for survival against the worst kind of terror not a form of complicity with terror?
Yom Kippur – 7-10 – is the climax of a ten-day period of soul-searching and self-improvement which begins with the Rosh Hashana New Year. On that day the sound of the Shofar ram horn is heard in synagogues throughout the world. As Maimonides points out, the Shofar sound is a siren to wake us up to the need to take stock of our lives and improve our ways.
Of course those who perpetrate evil must be battled, and President Bush is to be commended for his staunch commitment to this cause. But each of us must strive to eliminate the evil within our own lives and our own societies. We all pray for the victory of the forces of freedom in the war against terror launched by the tragedy of 9-11. But we also pray that our efforts to eliminate the terror within us will result in the divine declaration made on the first 7-10 and echoed every Yom Kippur:
"I have forgiven you as you requested."