Thursday, September 11, 2014

September 11, 2014

This evening at 6:30 p.m. Rabbi Millstein will be deliver the following words as a reflection and invocation at the September 11thMemorial Ceremony in Demarest.  Weather permitting the ceremony will take place at the September 11th Memorial by the Demarest Duck Pond. 

I am the rabbi of Temple Sinai of Bergen County in Tenafly but I live just a few blocks from here on Achilles Street.  I’ve lived there with my wife and two daughters, both now attending NVD [Northern Valley Demarest High School], for 6 years.  One of the things that attracted us to move to Achilles Street was that it is near this little park and Duck Pond.  It has a certain charm. 

Anyway, during my not frequent enough exercise walks I tend to go down to Cresskill, past Cresskill HS, back up along the railroad tracks, and through this little park.  And then often, without even being conscious of what I am doing, I find myself stopping here at this monument.   There is something that pulls me here.  It is a peaceful spot, set off the road; a place to pause, to meditate.  But, it’s more than that which draws me here, of course.  It has to do with the power of the sacred. 

The Bible tells us that when Moses was shepherding his flock in the wilderness he happened upon a bush all aflame, but it was not burning up.  Moses turned aside to look and God called to him out of the bush: “Moses, Moses!” 

“Hineini - Here I am,” Moses answered. 

God continued, “Remove your sandals from your feet, for the place on which you stand is holy ground.”

… THIS place [the September 11th Memorial], which is sacred, calls out to us and says, “Stop!  Don’t just walk by, for the place on which you stand is holy ground.”

This day, which is sacred, calls out to us and says, “Stop!  Don’t just let the day go by like every other day; this day is holy.  Take note; recognize; remember!”  

This place is holy, for it is dedicated to the memory of Christopher Vialonga, who grew up here in Demarest and perished on this day, 13 years ago.  It is holy because this monument, set as it is on an I Beam from the World Trade Center, honors the memory of all the victims of the cowardly terrorist acts perpetrated on the United States on September 11, 2001.   

This day is holy, for on it we can see that the World Trade Center Towers, like that bush in the desert in days of old, are still burning.  And they are still calling out to us with that very same message, that message of freedom and hope that God spoke to Moses so many centuries ago.

Oh God, who speaks to us out of the flame
May our ears remain open to your voice, even now, 13 years after the great tragedy.
May we realize that our sorrow is still with us
and not run from its touch or its flame
Yet may we discover the gift of the fire burning
in the inner chamber of our being -
burning great and bright enough
to transform any bitterness into blessing.

And may we hear its call:

To remember the fallen
The helpless, the heroes
Our loved ones, friends, neighbors and countrymen

To come together and not let apathy or self-interest pull us apart

And to act
To offer the power of our sorrow to the service of something greater than ourselves.
To “proclaim liberty throughout all the land and to all its inhabitants thereof” [Lev. 25:10]
To “let justice roll down waters and righteousness like a mighty stream” [Amos 5:24]
And to work fervently for the day when “they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig-tree; And none shall make them afraid.” [Micah 4:4]