The early calendar dates for the observance of the Jewish high holidays this year have created a juxtaposition between the commemorations of two noteworthy events – Tzom Gedaliah and September 11. And both events have similar roots borne out of hatred and opportune timely lessons to be gleamed.
What is Tzom Gedaliah?
Following on the heels of Rosh Hashanah is a fast day observed on the third of Tishri known as Tzom Gedaliah – which this year was Wednesday night and Thursday. As described in the article “Tzom Gedaliah Fast Day – What, why and how we mourn on the day after Rosh Hashanah” By Menachem Posner, Tzom Gedaliah commemorates the tragic death of Gedaliah.
“After the Babylonians destroyed the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and exiled many Jews in 3338 (423 BCE), they appointed Gedaliah ben Achikam as governor of the remaining Jews in the Holy Land.”
Under the wise leadership of Gedaliah, there was a type of rebirth in Eretz Yisrael. However, the rebirth was aborted due to the senseless hatred exhibited by a self-proclaimed rival Ishmael ben Netaniah, who along with a band of followers assassinated Gedaliah and members of his troops.
The horrendous nature of the tragedy was magnified by the fact that “this treachery was followed by more bloodshed. It also caused the Jews to flee to Egypt, effectively ending the prospects of Jewish settlement in the Holy Land until the return of the Babylonian exiles in the year 3390 (371 BCE) (as recorded in the book of Jeremiah 40-43 and II Kings 25) Thus, the Babylonian exile was absolute, and Judea was left bereft of her children.” The demonstrated hatred of Jew against Jew had profound consequences lasting years.
United 93 – The Flight for Eternity
Fast forward ahead to September 11, 2001, and other consequences of hatred will forever be etched in our worldwide collective memory. Although the most famous recollection is concentrated on the planes crashing into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center and their subsequent collapse, my fascination was directed at the journey of United Flight 93.
What the various media accounts demonstrate is that the hijackers who were four al-Qaeda terrorists on board had the same determination of diverting a commercial airline to reach a national landmark and cause the greatest victory for terrorism. In the case of United 93, the destination was the Nation’s Capital.
As in the case of the assassination of Gedaliah, the terrorists on board United 93 shared the same ideological hatred against the targets.
Bonded by Redemption
The two events detailed above demonstrate what diabolical actions can accomplish and wreak havoc on innocent populations leaving scars in the collective psyche for years.
However, there is another side of both incidents which are bonded by the goodness that can ultimately result with the proper demonstration of “good will” and “unity” and “redemption.
United 93 – A Bonding of Strangers
What is remarkable about the story is that it was the only one of the hijacked planes which did not reach its intended destination which was the Nation’s Capital. And the sole reason for the “failure” was the bravery of the passengers on United 93, who were determined to do whatever it took to take over the plane and prevent the hijackers from achieving their targeted objective.
No Greater Love
Dateline’s No Greater Love documentary on United 93, provides a beautiful narrative on the “bonding” which took place of the passengers who heretofore where strangers to one another, but whose determination to work as a team and coordinate a plan to potentially take over the cockpit and the plane from the hijackers, was a testimony to their heroism and courage.
Also what the documentary demonstrated was the nature of the consultations taking place between the passengers planning the takeover and their spouses with whom surprisingly enough they were able to contact from the plane. In each instance, the love that the couples shared and the respect for the other gave the green light for the passengers to attempt the takeover.
Tzom Gedaliah’s legacy
In a sicha entitled The Fast of Gedaliah -The Last Embers of Jewish Sovereignty from the talks of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, the Rebbe mentions how fasts are actually opportunities for demonstration of Divine goodwill, and particularly the fact that the Fast of Gedaliah takes place during the ten days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur gives the fast an added uniqueness of attaching it to the concept of teshuva.
It also possesses another feature in that the commemoration of the Fast of Gedaliah is always postponed from when it is said to have occurred on the first day of Rosh Hashanah. Such a postponement indicates that this day is uniquely empowered to hasten the coming of the Era of the Redemption, when all the commemorative fasts will be transformed into “days of rejoicing and celebration.”
Two Events – Two Transformations
What Tzom Gedaliah and United 93 demonstrate is that hatred can be counteracted if there is a commitment on the part of the impacted parties. In the instance of United 93, there was no question that they could not remain idle and allow a travesty even at the risk of their own lives.
Likewise, in the case of the Tzom, it will be transformed in the days of the Moshiah to be one of celebration according to our tradition.
What that means for us is that we also have models within our collective memory for not succumbing to darkness when faced with an assassination in the case of Gedaliah or the attempt to divert United 93.
The Lesson for US
However, what is required is a Unified Plan and commitment to a positive resolution. The juxtaposition of Tzom Gedaliah and United 93’s commemoration on this Shabbat coinciding with September 11 carries with it the thread that if we put our energies into what unites us and how to take the appropriate soul searching measures, we can transform these days of teshuva and demonstrate to Hashem that we are committed to shalom and acts of kindness.
And in turn, we want the reciprocity for sealing our destiny for a year of complete redemption and peace for all nations of the world with our citizenry leading by example. Let us make 5782 a glorious one with each of us taking responsibility to do our part.
One of the statements that started the takeover attempt on Flight 93 was “Let’s Roll” – Now is the time for our nation to adopt the same slogan Let’s Roll to Redemption.
Wishing you a Gmar Chatima Tova.