As I taught at our online davening this morning, the rabbis were terrified that Torah would be forgotten. Some were resigned to this eventuality, but Rabbi Shimon bar Yohai refused to accept such pessimism. He found evidence in this week’s second portion, Vayelekh: “this poem…will never be lost from the mouth of their offspring” (Deuteronomy 31:21). We, too, worry that the horrifying events of 9/11/2001 will fade into the recesses of our memory. A new generation of Americans were spared the horrors of the day, but also lack the power of its memory. We must find ways to perpetuate the memory of those who died simply for going to work that day, of the heroes who ran into the burning buildings, of the first responders who survived the blast but later died of chronic illnesses contracted while doing their sacred work.
One way to perpetuate memory is through reinterpretation. Bruce Springsteen did this with his song My City of Ruins, which you can find here. He wrote the song in 2000 to lament the dilapidation of Asbury Park; after 9/11, the song took on new meaning, and Bruce even wrote updated lyrics when he performed the song at a benefit concert just ten days after the attacks. Renewal is a good way to keep alive memory.
Speaking of renewal, it’s the subject of my weekly dvar Torah.
Every Friday in Elul, I’ll be sharing a clip of music for Selihot, the penitential prayers of the season, that Sephardim have already begun reciting, and that Ashkenazim begin after Shabbat. YouTube has countless clips of Selihot gatherings from around the world. Here’s one from Jerusalem, led by Yitzchak Meir.
Don’t forget to click here for Virtual Shabbat Prayers from Cantor Zim.
Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom, and as always good health,