Elul 23, 5761

The date of September 11, 2001, is the Hebrew date of Elul 23, 5761. This date is just seven days before Rosh HaShanah (1st day of Tishrei) and the beginning of the Days of Awe. “Seek the LORD while He may be found, Call upon Him while He is near” (Isa 55:6), is seen by many Hebrews as a reference by Isaiah to the Days of Awe because God is nearest to man during these days of the year.

A focus on repentance actually begins on the first day of the prior month, Elul. Repentance then proceeds for forty days from the first day of Elul to the tenth day of Tishrei, “Judgment Day” known as “Yom Kippur” in Hebrew. The forty days of repentance are somewhat comparable to the forty days of lent observed by some believers leading up to the day of the crucifixion.

September 11, 2001, fell near the middle of this time of repentance. In fact, September 11th always falls within the 40-day period of repentance. Coincidence? Maybe, but no one should dispute that 9/11 is a call for personal and national repentance. The question is, “Will we individually and the nation as a whole heed and respond to the LORD?” Only time will tell.

Of the many commentaries on the terrorist attack of 9/11, an enlightening viewpoint comes from Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis, author of the book, Life Is A Test.

“Soon after 9/11, a letter was circulated on the Internet asking people to give thought to the number eleven, starting with the date, 9/11 – nine plus two equals eleven.

  • The Twin Towers, standing side by side, resembled the number eleven.
  • The towers had one hundred and ten floors – drop the zero, and we have eleven.
  • September eleventh was the 254th day of the year – two plus five plus four equals eleven.
  • The flight number of the first plane to hit the towers was eleven; ninety-two passengers were aboard – nine plus two equals eleven. The flight had eleven crew members – two pilots and nine flight attendants.
  • Sixty-five passengers were aboard the second flight – six plus five equals eleven.
  • The American Airlines flight, which crashed into the Pentagon, was airborne for 92 minutes before it crashed – nine plus two equals eleven.
  • The United Airlines flight, which crashed in Shanksville, Pa., had 38 passengers – three plus eight equals eleven.
  • Shanksville, the site of the crash, has eleven letters.
  • New York City has eleven letters.
  • Saudi Arabia has eleven letters.
  • “The Pentagon” has eleven letters.
  • 911 is an often-used call for help.

And the e-mail listed many more elevens, too numerous to mention, but I’m certain that by now you get the drift.

Our young people at Hineni asked if this had any application in Judaism. My natural inclination was to say, “It’s hokey! You can’t take anything like that seriously.” Besides, 9/11 was not the date on the Jewish calendar, so what was the point of searching for Jewish answers?

But then I began to think about it and I realized that the corresponding Hebrew date to 9/11 was the twenty-third of Elul, and that also added up to eleven, Since Elul is the sixth month of the Jewish calendar year and six plus two plus three equals eleven!

I turned to the portion of the week that we read during 9/11 and combed the pages to determine whether the number eleven came up in that parashah. Sure enough, there it was! “The hidden things are for Hashem, our G-d, but the revealed things are for us and our children” (Deut 29:28). And over the words “to us and our children” are eleven cantillation dots! What does it all mean? I was determined to dig deeper.

In the Hebrew language, each letter of the alphabet has a numerical value. Aleph is not just “a,” but is also the number one. Beit in not just “b,” but it is also the number two, and so on. Thus, we can gain greater understanding of the meaning of words through their numerology. The Hebrew word for repentance, return to G-d, is teshuvah, the numeric value of which is seven hundred thirteen, (seven plus one plus three), once again adding up to eleven.

I started to examine other elevens in the Torah, in our prayers, and in our literature, and discovered that they were all somehow connected to teshuvah – repentance. Can these elevens be wake-up calls imploring us to re-examine our lives, our priorities? Is it not written in the Talmud that in every catastrophe that is visited upon the earth, there is a message for us?

In the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, the priests offered a special incense service on the Golden Altar. The incense had eleven spices, and was offered every morning and evening. The service was so sacred that we still recall it in our daily prayers and enumerate all eleven spices.

The Book of Psalms was written by King David, but what is less well know is that Moses also composed psalms, and David included them in his book. How many psalms did Moses write? You guessed it – eleven! Moses imparted his last will and testament to the people in the eleventh month and reminded the nation that the journey from Mount Sinai to the Promised Land normally takes eleven days (Deut 1:2-3).

Joseph is the Biblical figure who paved the way for the descent of his brethren to Egypt. He was the eleventh son of Jacob, and in his dream, he saw eleven stars that foretold the future. According to our tradition, that which befell our forefathers is bound to recur in the lives of their children. At the end of days, someone from the House of Joseph will once again pave the way for the messianic period.

There is a Kabbalistic teaching that the force of evil in the world is symbolized by Amalek, and we are commanded to obliterate all traces of this evil. Only thus can Messiah come. When Moses imparted this teaching (Ex 17:14-15), he referred to the Throne of G-d as “Kes” rather than “Keesey” and to G-d’s Holy Name as Y-H, rather than Y-H-V-H. Thus, he omitted a letter from G-d’s Throne and two letters from His Name. This teaches that as long as evil prevails, G-d’s Name and Throne are incomplete. The two letters that Moses omitted from G-d’s Name are the Vov and Hey (6+5=11). Can all these elevens be attributed to mere coincidence? Even if we are skeptics, shouldn’t it all give us pause?”


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