Dear Friends,Today, September 11th, we remember the tragedy that befell this nation eighteen years ago. We witnessed barbaric hatred that claimed over 3,000 innocent lives. We witnessed a fundamental turning point for this country and for the entire world. Life has not been the same since September 11, 2001. A vulnerability that we thought did not exist has been exposed – and it has affected each of us in different ways. Some of us had relatives, friends, and acquaintances in the World Trade Center Towers. Even if you were fortunate enough to escape personal loss on that dark day, you share in the pain of our countrymen and fellow citizens. Through the smoke and veil of tears, we saw something amazing. A nation made up of so many different races, religions and cultures came together as one. We cried and mourned together and felt the brotherhood of mankind. The American people came together in the Jewish tradition of Ish Echad B’Leyv Echad – one people with one heart. 

September 11th has taught us about the unspeakable evil perpetrated by man, while at the same time showed us the beauty, kindness and goodness we can create when we are united.But there is another important lesson we must remember on this tragic day. In the coming weeks we will read about the mitzvah of Bikurim, the obligation to bring the first fruits to the Temple, the Bais HaMikdash. As the farmer brings his basket of precious bounty and hands it to the Kohen (priest) he recites, “Arami oved avi (An Aramean sought to destroy my forefather). The farmer remembers those who have tried to destroy his father and his people. The farmer remembers that there are always forces and nations bent on our destruction. And as he holds the fruits in his hands, he realizes that despite all the hatred and suffering, we have been able to plant, we have been able to regenerate. The mitzvah of Bikurim teaches us about the strength of the human spirit. No matter what happens, we can and must find the strength to plant and build again. 

Although the collective heart of the Jewish people beats in the Land of Israel, we are truly privileged to be citizens of this beautiful country. We have seen her resilience and we have seen the ability of our fellow citizens to rebuild and replant. Who among us can forget the image of our flag rising above the smoldering ashes of the World Trade Center Towers? The Stars and Stripes represent the values and ideals of democracy and freedom; values from which we benefit each and every day. These are the values upon which this great country was founded, and these are the values that will endure no matter how vicious our enemies may be.

Please take a moment to remember those who perished on this tragic day. Let us pray that God will console their families and give them the strength to continue to rebuild and replant. Let us pray for the safety and security of our men and women in the United States Armed Forces, as they continue to battle evil wherever it rears its ugly head. May God give wisdom to our elected officials to put aside partisan politics and use their power and influence to take care of the men, women and children of this great nation and to show the world the acceptance, respect and prosperity which true democracy can generate. 

As we stand in the final days of this year, we pray for the day when evil and bloodshed will cease to exist, and the community of mankind will come together in an everlasting covenant of peace and respect.

With wishes for peace and final redemption,Rabbi Shmuel Silber