Dear Friends,

Although I customarily share an AHA Moment every two weeks rather than every week in order to keep my messages from becoming too frequent, next week we don’t have school on Friday and this week we conclude our first week of school with our entire campus reopened.

Today is also the anniversary of 9-11 when the Twin Towers were destroyed in the deadliest surprise terror attack ever perpetrated on American soil since the attack on Pearl Harbor.  My generation’s most impactful national tragedy in memory continues to be 9-11 when the Twin Towers came down. We all remember where we were at that moment on that day. We still honor the memories of the heroes who helped save lives and weep over the innocent victims who died.

I believe that COVID will become a global tragedy type of memory for the next generation. I don’t only mean remembering the loss of life worldwide or even the illness spreading globally. I also am referring in addition to the loss of life, the loss of life cycle events. All of us have experienced the bittersweet sadness of missing in-person life cycle events births, brisses, birthdays, Bnei mitzvahs, aliyahs, weddings, graduations, vacations, holidays, shivahs, and/or funerals that have been postponed, diminished, or even canceled altogether because of the pandemic.

Much has happened in the two decades since 9-11. I believe the ultimate goal of the Torah is to reach a state of global unity and awareness for humanity to work together for the common good and recognize that belief in God should not be a cause of divisiveness but rather a cause for harmony in the world. A potential silver lining of COVID is global humility and a reduction of feelings of national, religious, and cultural superiority complexes around the globe that may hopefully lead to more international cooperation.

It is striking to observe that only 20 years ago Saudi Arabia was the birth of the twin tower terrorist movement to fly passenger planes into buildings and now Saudi Arabia just announced they will allow Israel to fly passenger planes over their airspace in an attempt to strengthen positive relations with Israel and the West.

I never thought I would live to see the day that the UAE would transform from being one of Israel’s sworn enemies dedicated to its destruction into an ally and peace partner who now will have government ordered Kosher food available in every hotel in the country. (I am not exaggerating, please see the official announcement by clicking here).

As we look forward to the New Year ahead let us hope that this very bitter pill we have all had to swallow leads to a sweeter and more hopeful future in the year ahead.

Shabbat Shalom and Shannah Tovah,
Rabbi Elisha Paul