Can We Commit to Us? A 9/11 Reflection.

September 11, 2023

At 8am this morning I stood at Lincoln Center with tears streaming down my face, moved to attend the annual memorial to 9/11 with the Table of Silence Project.

See a few of my photos here.

Today weighs heavy on our hearts. In this solemn space of remembrance I’d like to share a reflection on the meaning of this hallowed day as it once again meets the high holy days that begin this week.

25 days ago we began our annual series of daily PrePent inspirational probes with a big question: What word might we use to replace the word ‘God’ in the US motto “In God with Trust?”

There is no single perfect answer.

We’re asking this question right now because we want to try to collectively  redefine what’s at the core of our common hopes.  And the concept of God as we know it, sometimes gets in the way.

Sacred to some, toxic to others, the word ‘God’, with its Anglo-Saxon origins, is but a stand-in for some elusive source that many of us in this complicated world seek to feel connected to. Perhaps as a God-Optional agnostic option sometimes called Life, or Love, or Nature. Perhaps it’s Everpresence.

What helps us trust ourselves, and trust each other more? How can we find, redefine and refine  common and enduring bonds?  We want to explore these questions, your ideas, and our shared learning  this coming High Holy Season and into the year.

So far we’ve posted 24 remarkable responses from different friends and community members. Check ’em out here.

Today’s PrePent offering is mine.  The word I chose relates to today’s date on two calendars.  It relates to the meaning of this day in American history and also in Jewish mythology. It’s about what it means to be better at being ‘us’.

Today we mark 9/11, a day of remembrance that reminds us of how many innocent lives were lost and are still at peril when wars and acts of terror are waged with the unholy alliances of faith and fury.  This is a day of mourning and solidarity, remembrance and resilience.

Those of us who lived downtown in 2001, right by Ground Zero, also remember the power of love — people who helped each other, and the city, heal. Crisis brought out the best in us. Personal gestures of care and support, rippling in and out of those tough days built up bodies with strength, and built bridges of recovery, one by one, day by day.

The power of us, the best in us, helping us heal is what I remember most from that terrible time, and it’s what I want to lift up today.

On the Hebrew calendar today is the 25th Day of Elul, which according to tradition is the day on which the world was created with the words ‘Let there be light!’ When we will gather in six days for Rosh Hashanah we’ll celebrate the birth of our species, the culmination of the mythic creation of the world.

So today we get to celebrate our wonderful and complex world in which we are all interconnected – humans and plants, moons and mammals, insects and ice. Us means all of us, together. The hierarchies don’t matter.

What if we did a better job at interconnecting, weaving a web of respect and tolerance–joining forces, each with our unique gifts, to help our home survive on a burning planet still worth saving?

What are the ways we can lift up the responsible attitudes that celebrate not just what I need but what is required of us?

So today, with aspiration, I offer one more answer to our PrePent question  — I lift up  the best case scenario of ‘US’

‘US’ as in our multi-species ecosystem, probably AI included.  Connected by life-force and the sacred source of all, whom today we  name: ‘US’.  We define the divine.

‘US’ can include annoying relatives and people who think very differently from us, and it can also mean the webs of connection closer to home that help us hope and cope, feel and heal. US means we’ve got each other’s backs and the sum of all of us is what’s greater than each of us, together, we can try harder to trust.

Today and in the high and holy days to come I invite you to reflect on your own choice of alternative words for ‘God’, and also to reach out to each other with Shana Tova messages, especially taking the time to repair relationships, unfinished business, whatever helps to mend and start the year softer and better connected. A healthier us.

I’m excited to welcome many of you, in NYC and online, to our High Holy Days together, starting this coming Friday night. Check out the details here.

Happy Birthday World.

May memories bring blessings.

Here’s to us.

Shana Tova!

Rabbi Amichai

P.S. Join me this coming Thursday  at 12pm ET on zoom for the last weekly Kaddish gathering of this year.

Each week we gather to support and stand in solidarity with mourners, honoring our loved ones who passed away and holding each other up.

Perhaps it can be an opportunity for you to mourn loved ones who passed this past year and join this brief ritual of mutual responsible care for the circle of death and life. Be part of our Minyan. It’s on us.

Learn more here.

PrepentPrePent! Watch our Welcome Video
Barbie, Bibi, and How to Cross our Bridge of Fears: Rosh Hashanah 5784 Sermon


Rabbi Amichai & Lab/Shul’s annual Elul journey into the new Jewish year with 40 daily communally co-created inspirations to help us begin the year with more focus and presence.

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