By the time I jumped into the passenger seat of my friend’s car in West L.A., the plane had already struck the second tower nearly three thousand miles to the East. His car was small anyway, but felt especially compact that morning, the air restricted as we listened to the radio broadcast and moved through the Sepulveda Pass. We were on our way to seminary, two rabbinical students silently contemplating the shifting landscape, and God.
Not long after, we joined our classmates for morning prayers. The service-leader sounded muted, defeated as he mumbled the ancient Hebrew words. But he tripped on the “Prayer for the Wicked.” In Bel Air, on most days with the sun shining, overlooking the San Gabriel Mountains, we would whisper that prayer – a pinch of shame at the liturgy’s rare admonishment.
But today, we whispered the blessings for knowledge and healing and prosperity and redemption – and he shouted, “Blessed are You, Lord, who destroys enemies and humbles the arrogant.” We were startled as if from a slumber and then swayed like children rocking ourselves in the dark, a bit too old for our mothers to oblige our fear of monsters.