By RABBI JOSEPH H. PROUSER
Today we mark the nineteenth anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States. Some 3,000 innocents lost their lives in those tragic events – including the 227 civilians aboard the four airplanes used in the attacks. Many first responders, striving to save the lives of strangers, were killed in the line of duty.
September 11, 2001 coincided with 23 Elul 5761. The Yahrzeit of 9/11 victims thus begins tonight at sunset, with the arrival of Shabbat. Ironically, 23 Elul is traditionally identified as the date on which the dove dispatched by Noah returned to him on the Ark with an olive branch in its beak – ever since, a symbol of universal peace.
Commonly, the Hebrew and Gregorian calendars fall precisely into sync every 19 years… as the Hebrew calendar operates on a 19-year cycle. A quirk in the system places the two calendrical systems out of alignment by a single day for this historic anniversary. “Delaying” the Yahrzeit until tonight provides the opportunity for a fitting tribute. We recall the victims of that dark day in 2001 with the words of the redemptive “Harachaman” prayer we add to our meal-time blessings each week:
“May a Merciful God grant as their inheritance a Day that is entirely Sabbath: Peaceful Rest for Life Eternal.”
(Rabbi Joseph H. Prouser is the rabbi of Temple Emanuel of North Jersey and the former National Chaplain of the National Jewish Committee on Scouting.)