It has been several weeks since the East Champlain Tower collapsed in Surfside, Florida. It has been several weeks of anxiety, heartfelt prayers, and an unending wait hoping to finally hear some good news. Families have been waiting to hear the outcome of the search and recovery effort. I personally know a family that lost both of their parents, in this most horrific building collapse in Surfside, Florida. There was a young couple who signed a lease for a condo in that very building on Wednesday, the day before the building collapsed. Thankfully they hadn’t yet moved in, although tragically his parents are still among the missing.
Like everyone else, I have been reading every available news article and update from the rescue site. By now we all know that the foundations of the building were in major need of repair. Already in 2018, an engineer had documented the, "major structural damage," visible in the parking garage. A leaking pool deck and sea-water flooding had caused significant spalling and corroded rebar. Watching surveillance video of the building coming down you can clearly see how it begins at the bottom causing a horrific domino effect that would cause a tragic death for so many innocent people who had been sleeping in their beds at the time.
The residential floors of the building may have looked nice and the ocean views may have been magnificent; but at its core, inside the pillars holding it all up, a slow corrosion was doing its damage.
A few weeks ago our nation celebrated its founding. Although the fireworks were fun, and the barbecues were great family time, at times like these it is critical to remember that the most important element of a skyscraper is not its paint colors or carpet, but the pillars underneath holding it all up. The facts are that our nation was founded on religious values. The Founding Fathers were not only deeply devoted to living a G-dly life, those values and ethics were also the foundational pillars upon which the framework of our beautiful country was built.
Sadly, it seems that much of the spiritual cement and moral rebar that ensured the internal integrity of our country has been corroding for a long time. We have gone from protecting religion from government to protecting government from religion. America has always been a place of religious freedom. Not only because in America anyone can do whatever they want. But because our Founders knew that a society built on a commitment to something greater than your own identity leads to a commitment to the greater good of our community and civilization.
As we celebrate the founding of our nation, we must take a moment to look under ground at what has held us together as a country for centuries. It has not been slavery (which actually divided our county and no longer exists); not money or taxes (as proven by the very different income taxes of different states), and most definitely not our political beliefs. Some may have a hard time accepting this; but religion, and a commitment to G-d, is what inspired and laid the very foundations of America. The time has come for us not to be ashamed to wear our religion on our sleeve, or our head. If there was a time when we could afford to keep faith a private, discreet matter, that time is long gone.
In America today, a person who bucks tradition and lives untraditionally is held up as an American hero. The more untraditional, the better. But a person who dares to cling to tradition is ridiculed and condemned. It is now culturally cool to mock religious observance. In today’s elite educational circles our college students need tremendous courage to proudly admit to religious beliefs. When mocking people who believe in G-d was still a shameful practice carried out behind closed doors, quiet faith may have been fine too. But now, atheism has become a religion of its own, committing the very intolerance and persecution they falsely accuse religion of. In such times our faith needs to be loud and proud.
Jews don’t wallow in grief. As King Solomon wisely tells us “It is better to go to a house of mourning … and the living shall take to heart” (Ecl. 7:2). Within our sadness we find lessons for a continued life of meaning and value. So let’s take Surfside to heart. Let’s not allow the pillars holding up our collective home to continue corroding. It’s time to repair the foundations that built America into the great beacon of freedom and opportunity for the rest of the world: A love and commitment to a moral, G-d filled, values based lifestyle.