A line was drawn in the sand. Good and Evil. Which side are you on?

Of course we are all on the side of good. On September 11, 2001, in New York and Washington, the dividing line became crude, the divisions crystal clear. If evil is the willingness to kill thousands of people who are innocently going about their daily lives, then certainly they are on the side of evil, we are on the side of good.

But, as we know, between these two poles lie many gradations—both poles are parts of a continuum, both lie within a larger field that unites them. Indeed, if this were not the case, then we on the side of good could have no effect on evil. Our ability to affect evil is only because, somehow, we are all connected.

From this perspective, the absence of good creates an opportunity for the advance of evil, while an abundance of good holds evil at bay. We all play a part in the balance.

Our awareness of this connection and interplay between good and evil allows us to take a bit of the world back into our own hands. We can join the battle against evil without ever picking up a gun. Through our actions, we can have an effect on the total context that has allowed evil to surge to such horrendous strength.

But to achieve this effectively, we must go beyond the crude dividing line of murder and terror. Otherwise, we may feel some degree of satisfaction at observing the commandment “Thou shalt not kill,” we may take pride in not being barbarians, but we will have nonetheless left the world as it is.

Let us delve deeper and try to understand the underlying difference between us and them.

For us, life is sacred. To murderers and terrorists, it is not.

The knowledge that life is sacred comes from somewhere deep inside our guts. It is part of what makes us human. It is an absolute truth that requires no further exploration or contemplation. Our sages explain it as a truth that emanates to our consciousness from the spark of divinity that lies within each of us. It is a truth that makes up part of our very being, transcending belief or rationality.

Our belief in the sacredness of life—and the manner in which we honor this belief in action—places us on the side of good. Because of it, we don’t murder, and we abhor the destruction of life when it is done by others. We don’t require murder and terror to take the lives of thousands of people before we experience outrage and disgust. Even the violent, premeditated end of one life is enough to put us into mourning and shock. It goes against what we innately know is the divine intent.

In His intent, we are taught, the Creator gave to each creation the inalienable right and privilege to discover and fulfill its G‑d-given, individual purpose. And, from the depths of our heart we know that no one has the right to judge the value and purpose of another’s life or to indiscriminately end it prematurely, G‑d forbid.

If this were not true, then we would be like parts of a machine that, if destroyed, could simply be replaced. We would have to think of ourselves as living in a mechanistic, soulless universe in which all things are judged by their usefulness in a utilitarian world operating by machine-like rules. We could then consult the operating manual to learn which of us are replaceable, in order to determine who could be destroyed and who needs to remain alive.

Instead, we believe that life is sacred, that we are all created by G‑d, who has imbued us with a spark of Himself and placed us in a world that has order, value and purpose. Nothing He creates is superfluous, and all things in His world are necessary and of value. In other words, we are all part of a G‑d-created Whole that requires each individual existence. From the perspective of this Whole, each of us is absolutely necessary. Simply put, we matter.

Thus, when life is snuffed out, we are all affected. We are shocked and dismayed. We know, sense and feel that the Whole in which we live has been shaken. The act not only claims a life, or thousands of them—it is an affront to the very foundations of the world we live in. And we sense this. Don’t we? We know this from a knowing deeper than our ordinary knowing. Don’t we? The tragedy of the Twin Towers felt as if our entire world, our trust, our foundation had been shaken. Didn’t it?

And it had. Because one of the foundations of our world—one of the laws that G‑d put into our world to keep it whole and healthy and functioning—is that life is sacred. And this belief, this innate knowledge that G‑d placed within us, is what separates those of us on the side of good from those on the side of evil. It is the essence of being human that, when missing, makes a person less than human, or as we have seen, inhuman.

And in the same way that human life is sacred because G‑d created it, so is all of creation sacred because G‑d created it. G‑d created time and space, and they too are sacred. G‑d created animals, trees and stones, and these, too, possess a spark of G‑dliness and sacredness. Each and every one of G‑d’s creations is imbued by its Creator with value, intent and purpose. Each of His creations fits into His scheme of things, has its irreplaceable place in the order of the world, and is constantly watched over and cared for by Him. All of creation shares the merit of being sacred, though its sacredness may be hidden or dormant, waiting for us to reveal it.

In giving us the Sabbath, G‑d demonstrated that time itself can be sacred. And He empowered us with the ability to sanctify every second of every day of our lives and to bring its divine potential and purpose to fruition.

When G‑d told us that the Land of Israel is sacred, as was the place where Moses saw the burning bush and Abraham bound Isaac to the altar, He showed us that place and space too can be sacred. Jerusalem, we are told, is holy, the Beit HaMikdash (Holy Temple) even holier, and the Holy of Holies the holiest of all. Our chassidic sages teach that each of us is empowered with the ability to make place and space sacred—to make holy our houses of study and prayer, our homes, and every private and public space. By behaving in a manner dedicated to and respectful of His purpose, we do our part in creating a fitting place here on earth in which G‑d can reveal and manifest His presence.

In the Torah, G‑d gives us the choice between life and its opposite. He encourages us to “choose life.” He empowers us to choose a path that will reveal the divinity, the sacredness imbued in each aspect of the world. This essential choice—to choose life or its opposite—is the essential difference between those who choose to be on the side of good and, G‑d forbid, those who choose the side of evil. To be on the side of good means much more than simply refusing to wantonly kill. To be on the side of good means to “choose life,” to dedicate our lives to revealing and honoring the sacredness of creation. Of time and space. Of plants, trees and flowers. Of water and sky and air. Of animals. Of our children. Our families. Our friends. Our communities.

The entire body of Jewish law and knowledge is devoted to teaching us how we can reveal the sacredness imbedded in G‑d’s creation: how to uncover and express the ultimate purpose and value, the meaning and importance of each thing, place, moment or person that crosses our path. It teaches us how to respect each other, and the ground we walk on, and the places we go to, and the miracle that is our body. It teaches us to value our time and continuously remember how G‑d has both carefully portioned out our days and given each of us myriad ways to make our limited, prescribed lives meaningful, crucial, irreplaceable.

And here—in this environment of sacredness—is where we have the opportunity to evaluate ourselves and our place in current events in a more refined way, a more personal way, a way that allows us to change and to choose and to affect the world so that we can add to the good, add to the beauty, add to the sacredness of life.

Yes, there were lines drawn in the sand on September 11. But they are lines that can lead to G‑d and to the refinement of the world. We can use these terrible times to look at time itself and how we use it, at life and how we live it, at place and space and environment and how we respect and maintain it, and at ourselves and the choices we make as we live out this gift of sacred life.

If we transform time into sacred time, place into sacred place, and life into sacred life, then there will be no place or time left for terrorism and terrorists to roost. Instead, they will be like lifeless ghouls, wandering aimlessly through a sacred universe, unable to find a doorway through which to pass, lest it be the doorway to hell itself.