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EMUNAH & BITACHON-----response to 9/11


It’s true – and this everyone knows already – that when suffering befalls us, we are obligated to take stock in our actions and do teshuva, because, as Chazal say, “There is no suffering without sin, and no pain without transgression”. The Rambam writes that it is cruelty (achzorius) to allow suffering to happen without attributing it to our sins. It’s like when a father slaps a kid in the face, and the kid says, “I trust my father that he must have had a reason to slap me, but I am not capable of figuring out why”. The purpose of the slap is to teach a lesson, and if the kid refuses to learn, then I guess another punishment is necessary, r”l.


So the first, most basic response is Teshuva, but it has to be accompanied by ruthless objectivity. Meaning, I am certain that everyone will say in response to this, “We have to speak less loshon horah, respect each other more, do more chesed and learn more torah”. People love to look at themselves and say, “We can improve”. But they do not like to say, “We have to CHANGE”. There is a big difference. Improvement means you have a certain value that you are striving toward, but you have to strive harder, more, better. Of course, regardless of how hard you strive there is always room for improvement. People are willing to commit to improve, but of course since there’s always room for improvement and always will be, the determination of whether they actually did as much as they could do to improve is impossible to make.

Then there is “change”. As opposed to improvement, where you have to try harder to do what you already are doing, or at least want to do, change, in this context, means to wake up and to realize that there are many aveiros that people are not trying to work on at all, but merely live our life accepting them as part of our lifestyle. People don’t want to think about these aveiros because responding to them means not only some vague commitment to “try harder” but to measurably and visibly make changes in your lifestyle.

That is why if someone says, “Jews are being killed in Israel. It’s because we talk loshon horah, we don’t respect each other enough, and don’t pray with enough kavanah”, people will accept that. But if someone says, “Jews are being killed in Israel. It’s because married women do not cover their hair, because people go mixed swimming, because boys and girls mix in ways they should not, because people read and watch and log on to places they should not”, people will get mad offended. Why would we accept only certain aveiros as capable of causing death and not others? Is it because we are reluctant to admit that our very lifestyle needs to be changed? Or that we only want to accept responsibility for something that we can always say, “We’re trying”, or “There’s ALWAYS room for improvement?”

Whatever. Our first response to tragedy is to ruthlessly audit our actions and admit to ourselves that our sins – not only loshon horah and disrespect for each other – is causing Jews to die all over the world. When Achan sinned by talking from the spoils of Yericho, Jews were killed, and that was one person, one sin. Everyone knows what their own sins are, and Hashem is showing us the possible consequences of them. And better he should show us in Olam hazeh…. At least now we are getting a warning. Sins are the most destructive thing in the universe.


The World Trade Center was probably the most monumental structures in the whole world. I’ve been in many countries, and I have never seen anything like them in terms of overwhelming hugeness. Watching it be blown away shakes us up, and we are shocked at the sight of something so big being obliterated like that.

The reality is, though, that what we watched this week is nothing compared to what our sins do in Shamayim. This world is nothing. It’s a puny, little spec compared to the universe at large. And the universe itself is less than a puny spec compared to the Olamos HaElyonim, the majestic upper worlds that are closer to Hashem. This entire universe is a little joke compared to the universe upstairs.

And the damage that a few planes can do down here is nothing compared to the utter destruction what sins can do up there. Up there is a world that lasts forever, is built of the goodness of our Mitzvos, and is beautiful and majestic beyond our comprehension.

When we do a sin, it is like atom bombing the most majestic city in the world. All the suffering, the screaming, the destruction, the horror and the ugliness, happens in Shamayim. It’s hard to envision what such a thing looks like, but last week’s destruction of something so big and majestic that horrified and shocked so, is a small miniscule Moshol of what we do to Hashem's world, to our own eternal Gan Eden world, and to this small world too, when we sin.

After 120 years, we will live forever and ever, for millions and millions of years until eternity, in a world that we make. Our Mitzvos build towers. Our aveiros tear them down. The horror and the shock of seeing the WTC torn down is nothing compared to our shock and horror of seeing the towers built by our Mitzvos torn down by our own actions. We are all going to have to relive the experience of the world trade center destruction in the next world. It will be not the death of others, but our own death over and over being experienced then, the pain and anguish will not be watched but intimately felt.

It won’t be some business offices that will be destroyed but our own homes, built by the sweat of our brows. That we will see crashing down around us, where we will be trapped between vaporizing heat waves and jumping to a crashing death. Our deaths, our homes, our horror, and our tragedy – it will all be so personal and up close. Taking place in the deepest part of our souls. We will see it happen, experience it, feel it in the most painful way. And we will think about those beautiful towers and the city that we built with our mitzvos and get sickened by what was and what could have been if not for the destruction taking place before our eyes. And we will wonder at the evil of the terrorists and what kind of animal would destroy such an infinitely beautiful city created out of the stuff of Mitzvos, and torture such beautiful peaceful souls created in the Image of G-d. We will watch, helplessly as the most beautiful and majestic structures go down in smoke and ashes, destroyed by suicide hijackers. We will watch and not be able to stop them, and we will wonder how Hashem could allow such beauty to be destroyed – beauty that was created by a Jewish soul – a chelek elokah mima’al – a part of Hashem Himself. Infinite beauty and majesty. How could Hashem allow it? We will scream out at the injustice and the evil of the perpetrators, the death and destruction they are causing. The sorrow, the horror. The lives snuffed out at their hands, and we will demand justice. We will scream to hashem to reveal the identities of the cowardly pilots and bring the criminals to justice. And we will demand to know, how such pain and horror could exist in the Olam HaEmes.

And Hashem will then answer us. And all the horror and pain that we saw until then will pale in comparison to the horror and pain and shock that we will realize that we didn’t grow much from when we lived in the Olam HaSheker, that just like we had eyes but refused to see Hashem’s justice in this world, we still are blind in the next world, too blind and deaf and dumb to understand the justice and ways of hashem, because at that moment, when we scream in pain and horror at the destruction of the infinite beauty created by our mitzvos, Hashem will allow us to see the entire picture. And when see that whole picture, we will then know the horror and pain of Gehennom itself, worse then experiencing our own deaths thousands and thousands of times over, and being helpless to stop it.

Because we will then see that the pilots, the terrorists, the masterminds behind this destruction…

… is us.

We did the aveiros, we knew what they would do, we were warned, and we destroyed our own world. And one avairah is like dropping ten thousand suicide planes on G-d’s world. On our world, that we created with our mitzvos.

But it will be too late, then.

“Today is the time to do them [the Mitzvos], tomorrow is the time to reap their reward.”

We have a choice. Let’s make it before it’s too late.

Let’s learn from the terrible destruction that we just saw.

Rosh HaShanah is coming. Let’s do teshuva.

(More to come....)

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