‘Contending with Catastrophe’

A new book marks 10th anniversary of 9/11 through the prism of Jewish law.

311_9/11 attacks (photo credit: Associated Press)
311_9/11 attacks
(photo credit: Associated Press)
Rabbi Dr. Michael Broyde, professor at the Emory Law School in Atlanta, Georgia, has edited a volume of essays for the Beit Din of America, entitled Contending with Catastrophe: Jewish Perspective on September 11th.
In his introduction Broyde stresses that the necessity of this volume is to place the 9/11 attacks in the area of Jewish family law. Specifically, he refers to the Jewish individuals who disappeared because of this tragedy. Their wives, who survived their husbands, had the status of agunot – unable to remarry – until the Beit Din was able to release them halachically.
The first part of the work contains essays by Broyde, rabbis Yona Reiss, Gedalia Dov Schwartz and Mordechai Willig, all members of the Beit Din. Additional essays in this section of the book are by rabbis Chaim Jachter of the US and Nechemia Goldberg of Israel, and they touch on other aspects of Jewish family law. The concluding essay on legal aspects of this topic is by Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, former Sephardi chief rabbi of Israel. The translation of his essay into English provides a treasure trove of halachic sources which he has at his fingertips.
Between the first and second sections of the book are documents relating to the agunot cases which were adjudicated.
The second group of essays deals with theological issues: the presence of evil and the occurrence of tragic events. Prof. David Bleich focuses on the problem of saving lives by killing innocent people.
This actually occurred with Flight 93 where the passengers on the plane overcame the terrorists, forcing it to crash in Pennsylvania rather than in Washington, DC. Everyone on the plane died. Rabbis Norman Lamm and Aharon Lichtenstein write specifically about the theological implications of the tragedy. Prof. David Shatz provides a broader philosophical reflection on all the issues involved.
The final part of the book contains three prayers in Hebrew with an English translation: a memorial prayer for the victims of 9/11; a prayer for the full recovery and heroic recognition of the first responders and emergency workers who bravely entered the burning towers of the World Trade Center; and a prayer for the safety of all those serving in the American Armed Forces.
The book can be ordered via http://khalpublishing.com