(September 11, 2004)

The pain has numbed somewhat. The three years, with their 1,100 days and 25,000 hours, have done their work. I'm speaking, of course, of the rest of us, not of those who lost family, loved ones or friends. For them, the pain remains acute for as long as they wake up in the morning without their spouse at their side, for as long as they reach for the phone with the knowledge that a familiar number will no longer summon a beloved voice.

The pain has numbed somewhat, but something else, something far more ominous, hangs in the air, thick as it did that terrible September morning three years ago: a persisting unease, an enduring apprehension. The horrible knowledge that came crashing down on our heads that morning is still here, the sudden, brutal realization that our world is no longer a safe place.

Some would say that it was here all along, that we were simply living in a fool's paradise. Certainly others have known all along that the world is not a safe place — the Jew living in Israel, the child growing up in a crime-ridden ghetto, the hapless citizen living under one of our world's shrinking but still respectable number of dictatorships. So why should our part of the world be any different? Information traverses the continents in milliseconds, human bombs in mere hours. There are no longer any islands of tranquility.

We beg to differ. We beg to differ because we believe in the goodness of G‑d and the goodness of His creation.

We believe that G‑d loves life, not death. That G‑d loves joy, not sorrow. That He loves righteousness, not wickedness. And so we believe that the world that G‑d created is a safe place, and that He keeps it that way. Scary things happen in this world, for reasons that we can and for reasons that we cannot understand. But G‑d keeps watch over His world, sets limits to the effects of the deeds of the evil, cries "enough!" when the sorrow becomes too much to bear. And G‑d knows where it is all leading. G‑d knows every step of the way — including the terrifying and painful steps — and knows how each step leads to the final eradication of evil and the ultimate triumph of good.

It is not we who live in a fool's paradise, it is they who live in a fool's hell. They may be geniuses in the weapon of terror, they may be brilliant in exploiting the generosity and goodwill of a free and peace-loving society towards their diabolical ends, but they are fools. Fools to believe they can undo G‑d's work, that they can make so much as a dent in the goodness of the world He wrought. Indeed, their every evil act provokes a hundred acts of kindness and compassion. Their every attempt to sow death and chaos is answered by so much more resolve and commitment to life.

So what do we feel on this third anniversary of 9/11? We are horrified, we are outraged, we are pained — and so we should be. Horror, outrage and pain are necessary responses when we witness an event upon the surface of our world so glaringly incongruent with its intrinsic goodness, so glaringly opposed to its creator's will.

We are not afraid.