I woke up on the morning of 9/11 in my friend’s Chicago apartment. My friend told me to turn the television on to the Today Show on NBC because a plane had just flown into one of the World Trade Center towers. I couldn't believe my eyes and then we saw another plane fly into the other tower. The world would change forever, and so would the way people talk about that date in history. My flight was canceled, but I was able to take a train back to Michigan a couple days later. Air France, with whom we had booked our flights to Israel, decided they would no longer fly to Israel and immediately refunded our money. We made the difficult decision, along with many of my classmates and their spouses, to stay in the U.S. for the year rather than spend it in Israel. Ironically, it was a choice we made because of the terrorism in America and not because of the scary terrorist acts that had plagued Israel all summer long.
My wife and I had already rented out our New York City apartment so returning there wasn’t an option. Instead, we took our possessions out of storage and moved to Caldwell, NJ – close enough to commute into Manhattan and live in a vibrant Jewish community where I would intern at the local synagogue. For us, 9/11 altered our plans. But that is certainly no comparison to the way so many lives changed dreadfully as a result of the horrific events of that day.
Driving to Manhattan from New Jersey during those first weeks following the 9/11 attack, my eyes were drawn to the smoke emanating from Ground Zero. I sat in rabbinical school classes listening to my classmates discuss the sermons they were crafting for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. How would we use the power of words to bring healing to the men and women sitting in front of us during these Days of Awe?
Following the High Holiday season, I decided to collect the sermons that rabbis had delivered right after 9/11. I spoke to my teacher, Rabbi Neil Gillman, and asked if he would be willing to help me edit these sermons and compile them into a book called "Torah From Terror." He agreed and we got to work sending out requests to Reform, Reconstructionist, Conservative and Orthodox rabbis. We asked them to submit a sermon from either Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur that dealt with the 9/11 tragedy. Immediately, the sermons began pouring in. We wanted to make these words of Torah available to the world and quickly. So we decided to create the Torah From Terror website.
On this, the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks I have decided to reformat the Torah From Terror website. Now visitors are able to leave comments on the different sermons. The search capability is also much improved from the original site. I hope you will read through these words of wisdom and find comfort and hope in them. May these words be a remembrance of that horrific day and may we continue to find inspiration in words of Torah.
My wife and I made the best of a change of plans, while so many families will never be the same after September 11, 2001. Our country will never be the same after being shaken so devastatingly. May the memories of all those who lost their lives that day forever be for blessings.
-Rabbi Jason Miller
Editor, Torah From Terror