Thoughts on September 11: a letter to remember

Rabbi Herbert Yoskowitz remembers two nuns who were with him on September 11, 2001.

IIt was an incredible series of moments filled with sadness and prayer.

Two Dominican sisters of the Roman Catholic Church, Sister Marie-Madeleine and Sister Anna Marie, of the Order of Preachers (OP) and I had made an appointment at the Adat Shalom synagogue at 8:30 a.m. on September 11, 2001.

The nuns had learned of the recently published book The Kaddish Minyan that I edited and wanted to learn how Judaism helps heal the souls of recently bereaved people. One of the sisters lived in Farmington Hills, while the other was from Port of Spain, Trinidad, West Indies.

My two visitors that morning were part of a religious order dedicated to healing the world through prayer and action. As we sat together in my office, the sisters and I spoke about the commitment to healing to which our respective faiths are dedicated. We talked about the importance of our Covenant with God and joining with Him “l’taken olam b’malchoot Shaddai” – to repair the world in the kingdom of God.

Rabbi Herbert A. Yoskowitz
Rabbi Herbert A. Yoskowitz

We were in the midst of a deep theological discussion when the calm was interrupted by the terrible events of that day when our country was attacked.

“Sisters,” I asked my guests, “would you join me in our chapel in praying for the safety of our people currently under attack? They immediately agreed and we walked together in silence to Shiffman Chapel to join in the prayer. Regardless of our mode of prayer – they were on their knees praying as I stood silently in prayer in front of the Holy Ark – we were praying for the lives and well-being of the American people in the face of danger. imminent.

Who knows what effect our prayers from twenty years ago will have on people today or in the distant future? In his essay “Expiration, Suffering, and Redemption,” Rabbi Joseph Dov Soloveichik taught: “Somehow the small, unassuming and invisible act, the seemingly insignificant, unnoticed and barely discernible act, is precisely the one who occupies a higher place than the renowned great heroism. “

Has our work of unity in the face of national trauma had a positive effect? Surely he did it on us. As the sisters wrote to me in a letter of September 15, 2001: “Your teaching on the holiness of life to which your people are called (and the fullness of life!) And the integration of the progressive stages of life… in the dynamics of an ever-present relationship with the Lord, was an experience in itself. Praying with you was another.

What unspeakable horror September 11, 2001! there is no doubt. As we remember and honor the memory of the firefighters and others who made the ultimate sacrifice in trying to save as many lives as possible, I remember two nuns, Sister Mary Magdalen OP and Sister Anna Marie OP, the one geographically close and the other very far. away who were with me in prayer and in action to try to shape a world in which our covenant with God will make an even greater positive difference by leading us to a unity of sacred values ​​affirming the life of our Torah.

Herbert A. Yoskowitz is Rabbi Emeritus of the Adat Shalom Synagogue in Farmington Hills and a lecturer at the William Beaumont School of Medicine at Oakland University, Rochester Hills. He was a Jewish chaplain at John Dingell VA Medical Center for 25 years. He is the editor of The Kaddish Minyan: the impact on ten lives (Eakin Press, 2001) and The Kaddish Minyan: From Pain to Healing: Twenty Personal Stories (Eakin Press, 2003).


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