September 1, 2021

When Creation and Destruction Meet

Robert Lichtman Chief Jewish Learning Officer

The Jewish calendar revolves around the moon. The lunar cycle determines our months, years, and holidays. 

One date that is determined by the sun, not the moon, that affects our behavior, that enables us – no – that compels us to stop and to reflect, is Shabbat. It reminds us that we are limited beings in an infinite universe, dissolves our hubris, yet still ennobles our deeds.  

Another powerful date coming up, also determined by the sun, is September 11. In this new year of 5782, Shabbat and 9/11 are one and the same, nestled in the midst of our High Holy Days, with Rosh Hashana, the day human lives were created, and Yom Kippur, the day when lives hang in the balance, as extraordinary bookends 

Both Shabbat and September 11 teach us, in powerful ways, that we are not masters of the universe and that there are forces beyond our comprehension that have a say in our lives. Both dates revolve around our place in community. Both dates center us in the love of family.   

Shabbat has the power to disentangle what has overtaken us in the prior week, beginning with the symbolic lighting of separate Shabbat candles. We rest for 25 hours to reflect on our work and to pause from it so that we can re-center ourselves with the things that are most meaningful to us and re-integrate them within us as we begin a new week powered by the lights of one multi-wicked Havdalah candle. As we hold our hands up to the light cast by that brilliant flame, we ask ourselves, how will my hands partner with the Creator of the universe this week? How will I bring more of this light into the world? 

On Shabbat, September 11 an additional candle will be lit in many Jewish homes. A memorial candle. This flame, reminding us of lives and loves forever lost, may seem in awful contrast to the hopefulness that the Shabbat candles bring. But on this 20th Yahrzeit of the thousands of innocents murdered, let’s see these flames joined in common purpose. Shabbat is a day of rest, yes – a rest that allows us to regain our balance so that we may continue holy work. September 11 is a day for memories, yes – memories that will empower us to live life to the fullest. 

This is what our intention will be when we say the words, “May their memories be a blessing” on Shabbat, September 11.  A blessing for us, that we may be inspired by their memories to sift through the ashes of destruction and to hold dear those precious pieces that will enable us to build a hopeful future, beginning now – with the new week. 


Want to attend a local 9/11 commemoration? Here are a few of the many programs taking place across the community: 

Essex County will hold a solemn ceremony at Eagle Rock Reservation at 8 a.m. on Saturday, September 11 at the reservation, located at Eagle Rock Avenue and Prospect Avenue in West Orange. It will be open to the public and also streamed live online at the county website. 

The Morris County Board of County Commissioners is inviting residents of Morris County and beyond to join them on Sunday, September 12 at 6 p.m. at the Morris County 9/11 Memorial on West Hanover Avenue in Parsippany-Troy Hills. 

The Union County Board of County Commissioners invites members of the public to attend a special ceremony to honor the memory of the 60 Union County residents killed in the attacks of September 11, at the Union County September 11th Memorial in Echo Lake Park, in Mountainside at 11 a.m. on Saturday, September 11.