Finding Healing in Tradition
On 9/11, I was a first grade teacher at a Jewish day school in Massachusetts. With no media devices other than a single radio, we learned of the events in fits and starts, and said nothing to the children.
The next day, we gathered together for morning prayers. 9/11 fell during the Hebrew month of Elul, when it is a tradition to sound the shofar, an ancient wind instrument made from a ram’s horn, each morning. The shofar recalls moments of immense joy in Jewish history - receiving the Torah on Mt Sinai and the welcoming of the new year, Rosh Hashanah. It also evokes times of unspeakable grief - the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, and the day Abraham was called to sacrifice his only son. It reminds us of God's strength, and the tears of our people. It symbolizes the prophetic call for justice, and the promise of a messianic age. It urges us to repent, and it exhorts us to have faith.
With the sounding of the shofar that morning, we took our place amongst the generations of Jews who witnessed unspeakable horrors in their own times and persevered. After the service, our students went back to math lessons and handwriting practice, lunch boxes and rest mats, games of tag and four square, and life went on - quiet proclamations of incredible faith.