Rosh Hashana has two names: Yom Teruah, the day of the shofar blast, and Yom Hazikaron, the day of remembrance.
This Sunday is now the 21st commemoration of 9/11. Each year, I dedicate this column to the lives lost on that horrific day.
A shofar is a wake up call, but a shofar sounds like a siren. Living in New York City on that day, the sirens were ever present only going in one direction, south on Broadway to the burning Twin Towers. As fire engines raced down, people of all religions and races ran in the opposite direction, praying that they would see their families again.
After that fateful day, I lived in Manhattan for the next nine years, and yet I never visited the spot of the attacks. It was too raw, too difficult to comprehend. Yet, each and every day, it was yom hazikaron yom teruah. It was a wake up call and days of remembrance, of how our world could change instantly.
While I did not know any victim of 9/11 personally, I did learn a special story. Joshua Birnbaum was a recent Columbia University graduate working at Cantor Fitzgerald. Joshua was trapped on top of the towers and knew he would not make it.
Joshua was my Resident Advisor’s best friend. Our roles changed; we, the students, became the comforters. We recognize the fragility and gift of life.
On Sunday, we will wake up and the world will go on. Hundreds of students will enter Sinai Temple for the first day of Religious School, singing the shema as a community for the first time in months. Sunday is the beginning of Little League season, and young boys and girls will take the field with hopes and dreams.
Yet, no matter where we may be, Sunday is 9/11–it is Yom Teruah, a day of the shofar blast. We will blow the shofar in the morning minyan, it will connect us to our ancient past, and it is a reminder of the work we need to do. And Sunday is a Yom Hazikaron, a day to remember once again. On this solemn day, learn a story of a life that was cut short. Remember Joshua Birnbaum. Remember that it is our task to not let their lives be in vain.