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Shabbat Netzavim / Vayelech 5781 Dvar Torah by Rabbi Saul I. Grife

"Remembering 9/11 - We are All in this Together!"

19 years ago, today our nation suffered the worst foreign attack on our soil since our inception. Nearly 3000 people lost their lives and another 6000 were wounded that day in the fateful attack. The country rallied to support New York and to rush to the sites where the attacked planes had gone down. Since then, 9/11 has become a unique memorial day for us. We witnessed the destruction of the 2 World Trade Towers in lower Manhattan. Since then, the 1,792 ft. tall Freedom Tower has been built on the original site and was opened on November 3, 2014. 9/11 changed the world and American history forever. Today, we look back and remember the victims and their families and the pain that we suffered witnessing the tremendous loss of life plus the catastrophic destruction on that day. For 19 years we continue to admire and extend our thanks to all the first-responders who rushed into the World Trade Centers and to the other sights of attack to help. 414 police and firemen died at Ground Zero on that fateful day. 1 died near Shanksville, PA and 55 military personnel died at the Pentagon. 19 years later, everyday but especially today, all of America remembers.

Parshiyot HaShavuah, the 2 Torah portions this week are Netzavim and Vayelech near the end of Sefer Devarim, the Book of Deuteronomy 29:9 - 31:30. "Netzavim" means "you are standing", referring to Bnai Yisrael, the entire nation of Israel who stood with Moshe, reconfirming their attachment and commitment to the covenant that they had established with God through the Torah. "Vayelech" means "he went", referring to Moshe who went before the people to deliver his final farewell speeches, imploring them to continue to believe in God and to follow God's will after he died. These 2 portions signal the beginning of the end of the Torah. They are portions numbered 51 and 52. Though they are terse in length, they are great in import.

In Parshat Netzavim, Moshe tells the people that literally everyone is included in the national covenant with God, from the tribal leaders to every man, woman, child, stranger, water carrier and wood cutter. He purposed to unite the people as a whole in their commitment to God and the Torah. Is it coincidental that we read this parsha this weekend when we commemorate 9/11? For on this day, despite the great political, racial and civil divisiveness that currently threatens our country, today it is hoped that we will transcend our differences to unite as Americans to look back and to remember, to look around and appreciate each other and the blessings we enjoy and to look forward to build together a "more perfect union". Oneness and unity are the underlying premises of both Judaism and America, one reason why it is so easy to be so loyal to both our religion and our nation. Judaism speaks of one God and one people, united in the aim of upholding God's Torah, acknowledging and appreciating God's presence in our lives and committed to fulfilling the central tenet of the Torah found in Leviticus 19:16, "Love your neighbor as yourself". America speaks of "One nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all". Jews have always treasured their American identity, contributing to the welfare of the United States since its inception in every possible arena. We continue to unflaggingly cherish our country and our religion through both the best of times and during the worst, as we always have.

Therefore, on this 19th year of commemoration for 9/11, let us continue to embrace all that is good about America and Judaism in our continuing efforts to unite the people of this land. Let us remember the parallel principles upon which both America and Judaism were founded. Let us feel responsible to contribute positively to both communities. Let us embrace the opportunities we have to treat each other in the way that will enhance life in America for all Americans. Let us endeavor to do so on this 9/11 and on every day throughout the year for the common good. We are never so strong, worthy and capable as when we are all pulling in the same direction for one and for all!

I wish you all a blessed Shabbat, the last one of 5780. I hope you'll join us for Shabbat services on Zoom throughout the day and for our special Havdalah service Saturday night at 8:00 which we will join together with Temple Sinai and TBI of Blue Bell followed by a national Selichot commemoration. Finally, I wish everyone a blessed last week of 5781 and heartfelt wishes for a Shana Tova Tikatevu!! May you and all of us be inscribed and sealed in the Book of Life In the upcoming year!!


Thu, October 22 2020 4 Cheshvan 5781