Sounds...of terrorist attacks...and the Shofar
By Richard S. Moline
There are so many sounds we take for granted. So many sounds, which those of us fortunate enough to hear, receive every single day of our lives. Most of these sounds are sounds to which we pay no attention at all. Breathing. Footsteps. Traffic. Sounds which simply fade into the background.
And then there are sounds which cause us to react; which startle us. A glass that falls on the floor and breaks. A car accident. Unexpectedly loud music.
Sounds which stir us and sounds which seem part of everyday life. Sounds, which we usually take for granted, can be our blessings. And then there are sounds weíll never forget. Sounds which can cause pain and suffering.
Iíve been thinking about sounds lately. This past August 9, I was in Jerusalem. It was about 2:00 in the afternoon. We were having lunch at an outdoor cafť when a sound Iíd never heard before pierced those other noises I took for granted. It was a sound Iíd never heard before, and hope never to hear again. This hollow boom caused the ground to shake.
It wasnít long before an unfamiliar odor filled the air. The bombing at the Sbarro restaurant caused death and physical and spiritual wounds. Within seconds, ambulances were on the scene and the streets were closed. Members of the hevra kadisha began to collect body parts for proper Jewish burial.
That same sound, emitted on a sunny Jerusalem afternoon, which caused so much death and destruction, also gave rise to extraordinary acts of kindness and comfort. It awakened the humanity in so many of us.
On September 11, I found myself in New York City, in a meeting in our offices on 22nd Street and Fifth Avenue. Around 9:00 a.m., one of our secretaries walked in and reported that there seemed to be rumors of a plane crash into one of the towers at the World Trade Center. We heard a faint noise a few minutes earlier, but thought nothing of it. It was one of those sounds which can often fade into the background in New York.
Shortly thereafter, we learned of a second plane crashing into the other tower. Going down to street level, we saw smoke and flames pouring out of the windows just before the second tower collapsed. Other sounds began and lasted for hours.
Those sirens served as a reminder of the terror. Those sounds, which normally fade into the background, especially in New York, took on added significance. And it now occurs to me, that whenever we hear the siren of an ambulance, it means that someone could be in danger. Not a necessarily a massive tragedy, but possibly just one individual.
The Talmud teaches us that one individual represents on entire world. We need to be more tuned in, more sensitive to such noise.
Last night, I went to OíHare to retrieve my car. I ended up taking a train from New York to Chicago and I had been unable to get into the parking garage any earlier. Like so many, Iíve been to OíHare hundreds of times. It was one of the eeriest scenes Iíve ever seen. There was not a plane on the tarmac, nor at any gate. I exited my taxi in an area which is often two or three deep in cars. Aside from some official government and airport cars, there was no traffic at all. I entered the airport and soon realized that I was the only "civilian" in the immediate area. I actually heard my footsteps; a sound to which one rarely pays attention, let alone hears at OíHare Airport. A sound, which once again, stirred my emotions. As I walked through the corridors to the parking garage, an overwhelming sadness simply overtook me. I heard my key enter the lock of the car. Another sound one never hears at OíHare. A sound which, in its simplicity, took on such great significance.
Today, the noises in New York, Washington and elsewhere, have aroused incredible humanity. In the rescue workers. In those who gave blood. To the two twenty-something men who went out and purchased $50 worth of dry socks to hand out to the firefighters. Sounds which stirred us to think, to feel and to act.
This week, Jews all over the world will hear another a sound, one which is deliberately meant to act as a catalyst to both act and react.
I pray that the sound of the Shofar will comfort us during our time of sorrow and provide us with the strength to hug our kids more often, to say hello to our neighbors, to tell our loved ones how we feel about them and even to smile at the stranger. It is a time to show both resolve and compassion. And itís a time to listen to those sounds. All of them.
Richard S. Moline