Moderator’s Note: Though—thankfully—Bin Laden isn’t in the news these days, the following insight is definitely worthy of a news-oriented blog.—N.S.

It’s a safe bet you’ve not traveled to Hadhramaut, never mind heard of the location. Yet it does exist, though it may not feature high on the list of places to visit before you die. Hadhramaut is an ancient region, located somewhere in the hardscrabble deserts of eastern Yemen. Its name, according to many linguistic scholars, stems from the Arabic words for “death has come.” An old fable related to this name would suggest a locale with a morbid fascination with death.

I learned of all this, and a lot more, from a book I recently read. A book dedicated to tracing the origins of a well-known family that hails from this region: the Bin Ladens. A seemingly well-suited name for the native land of a person who has wreaked havoc and destruction, and caused an untold number of deaths.

Interestingly, the Torah mentions a locale with a similar name, which may very well have been the inspiration for the name of this region, or may even be the region’s original name.

In describing Noah’s offspring born after the flood, the Torah (Genesis 10:26) speaks of an individual named Chatzarmavet—or “Courtyard of Death.”

It would seem to be very poor judgment on the part of parents to name their child “Courtyard of Death.” Imagine the psychological effects on a child in a playground setting saddled with a name like this! What is even more curious about this narrative is that according to our tradition, the father of this child, Joktan, was a fine fellow, not to mention a humble and upstanding citizen!

Our sages address this question by teaching that Chatzarmavet was not the given name of Joktan’s son, but the name of the location where he settled. And it is a testament to the profound effect this person had upon his community that he earned the accolade of having an entire region named for him.

The citizens of Chatzarmavet were known for their inclination to forgo the instant gratification of transitory consumerism that plagued the milieu they lived in—favoring instead a life of enduring value and infinite existence. These were a good, simple folk, unfazed by credit crunches, toxic debt, or loss of equity and monetary value. These people lived a simple and austere lifestyle, eschewing a life of glitz and glamour in favor of a thrifty but happy existence.

They personified the teaching of our sages (Talmud, Shabbat 153a), “Repent one day before you die.” Since we never know when that day will come, we must always be repenting . . . They always contemplated death—i.e., that since life is so fragile and temporary, it is foolish to waste time on acquiring, or worrying about, possessions that are of fleeting value. Instead they chose to focus on permanent and lasting ideals, those that will be of enduring value long after the soul departs the body.

Thus they were named “Courtyard of Death.” They eschewed the temporal “life” that so many pursue.

But from Hadhramaut comes one who chose to be defined by the literal meaning of the name of his ancestral home; hence a 9/11 atrocity is conceived and executed, resulting in the wanton murder of thousands of innocent people.

From Chatzarmavet, however, comes an idea of personal responsibility, of an ethos that ensures the perpetuation of a people focused on values that reject temporal materialism and the flavored soundbites of mass consumerism—in favor of a more difficult, yet ultimately more rewarding task of spiritual and moral growth, ensuring that we will overcome Hadhramaut with Chatzarmavet.