Some of you may know that I write these posts in advance, sometimes up to a week ahead. I knew that the 10th anniversary of 9/11 was coming up this week, but in focusing on the Torah portion, I wasn’t paying attention to the connection.
I also wasn’t prepared for my reactions all week, listening to the retrospectives and stories and memories. So this morning, in reading the parasha Ki Tetze, and the emphasis at the end on never forgetting, I realized I had to write a little more.
My 9/11 story: That morning, I’d sent the kids off to school, heard an odd report on NPR about a plane going down in Pennsylvania and not sure if it was connected to a report about a plane and the World Trade Center. I came home, turned on the TV and never left my seat. I was glad the girls were staying at school; I needed time to myself to process (if ever!) what I was seeing. I did the first thing I could think of – I called my sister in Israel. There, 8000 miles apart from each other, connected by a phone and real-time TV, we watched the second Tower fall. Surreal doesn’t come close to describing it.
We have friends on the East Coast; we used to live there. A friend from our day school lost her son. The pilot of the second plane lived in our town. My husband waited three weeks to find out if a law-school friend had survived. And our rabbi needed to suddenly become really knowledgeable of Jewish law that addresses burial with no body, something that hadn’t really been an issue for a generation. We lost six of our congregation.
We learn about Amalek in this portion, and I wrote that what makes a just society is protecting the weak. But there’s more to this text. We read of the rules of war; there are some. Just people follow them. But ten years ago, a group of Amalekites attacked from the rear, and picked off the vulnerable. I’m not making a comment on the ethnic background of those who planned and carried this out. Anyone doing such deeds, and there have been all too many we know of, is an Amalekite.
So, like the Torah says, we remember. We remember. And we cry the tears that are just below the surface.