>One of the first tasks
you learn as a soldier is how to shine your boots. No matter where you're
stationed or what your mission, your day begins with polished boots.
When my men and
I arrived at Ground Zero on Sept 11, fires were raging out of control
and the smoke was burning our eyes. The first thing I noticed was the
ash. Cars, people, buildings -- everything was covered in ankle-deep ash.
Some time later it occurred to us that many people who had been inside
the World Trade Center had been completely burned, cremated by the intense
heat of the explosions and fires. This ash was their remains.
I did not clean
my boots that night. How could I? Would it make a difference? Within four
hours I would be back outside, amid the carnage and destruction. I have
not shined my boots since September 11, and when my mission here is completed
and I am no longer needed at Ground Zero, these boots will be buried,
never to be worn again.
I hear every day, from soldiers, civilians, politicians and rescue workers
is, "How could G-d allow this to happen?" They ask me this as
I walk on the ashes, as I climb over destroyed buildings, and as I pass
the constant stream of families in mourning, peering over the barricades.
I could tell them that there are people who choose to do good and people
who choose to do evil. But what do I say to the thousands of innocent
people who are suffering, the victims and the bereaved? What can I offer?
I can only try to offer hope.
my job is hope. I am not trained in desert warfare, I cannot fly an F-16,
and I get stuck sometimes just trying to send e-mail. But I do know the
value that Judaism places on hope and faith. The Talmud teaches us that
even if the blade of an enemy's sword is at one's throat, one must never
give up hope.
person there is an incredible reservoir of hope and strength. I have seen
it in our Armed Forces for 26 years. But September 11th exposed this hope
in each and every person.
I saw hope in
a firefighter who stood on burning debris with his boots melting, hoping
to find survivors. I saw hope in the eyes of a rescue worker who pulled
a yarmulke out of the wreckage and gave it to me, hoping that I could
find out to whom it belonged.
I saw hope in
a volunteer who heard that I was going to blow the shofar at Ground Zero
on Rosh Hashanah. When she heard the notes of the shofar, tears began
to stream down her face. When the service was over, she gathered herself
together, took a deep breath and went back to work.
I saw hope and
strength in the Army combat engineers who built a sukkah at Ground Zero
for rescue workers and families of the Jewish faith. I heard hope in the
words of President Bush and Governor Pataki. I saw hope in the actions
of Mayor Giuliani, who was constantly with the workers, encouraging them
and thanking them for their help. These ordinary people, these rescue
workers, these leaders, help give us hope and faith in a time when we
need it most.
was talking to his grandson about how he felt. He said, "I feel as
if I have two wolves fighting in my heart. One wolf is full of anger,
despair and hopelessness. The other is full of compassion, strength and
asked, "Which wolf will win this fight in your heart?"
answered, "The one that I feed."
If there is one
thing we need most today, it is hope. Feed the hope and faith in yourself
and others around you. Never give up. Never lose hope, as it is the essential
ingredient with which we will rebuild our society. Without it, we have
buildings that can be destroyed. With it, we are one nation under G-d,
Colonel Jacob Z. Goldstein is the chief chaplain of the New York Army
National Guard. He and his team were eyewitnesses to the tragic events
of September 11th, and one of the first military units to arrive at Ground
www.chabad.org (originally published in Farbrengen Magazine).
© 2002 Chabad-Lubavitch Media Center