Marc Hoschander used to sit in the row behind me every morning at the 6:15 a.m. minyan at Congregation Degel Israel. I saw him at shul the morning he died. I don’t even remember if I wished him a good day. Since then, especially last Friday, a week after he passed away, I look at his empty seat and there a sense of sadness. I could talk about Marc but both Shabsie Saphirstein and Rabbi Yoel Schonfeld gave glowing tributes, so I do not believe I could meaningfully add to what they expressed. I also do not need to address the pain and suffering that his family, including his mother, wife, and children, are going through, since it’s something that most people who have lost a loved one can relate to. Instead, I want to address what each one of us can learn from his passing and use for our own lives.

I went outside after shul this morning - I daven in a hashkamah (early) minyan - and I felt transported back to the morning of September 11, 2001. Today was a warm, sunny day with few clouds in the sky, just like it was twenty years ago. Then a little after 9:00 a.m., I felt a sense of sadness overcome me. I realized this was the time the second tower was hit.

In last week’s Torah reading of Bereishis, Adam is asked by G-d whether he had eaten from the tree from which he was commanded not to eat. Adam did not admit that he was wrong and take responsibility for his actions. Instead, he blamed G-d for having given him the woman who gave him the fruit. Adam forgot that he had asked G-d to create woman, as explained by Rashi. Then G-d went to Eve, who likewise did not admit she did anything wrong. She put the blame on the snake by claiming that the snake deceived her.

We hear, read, and say it every year on Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur: Repentance, prayer, and charity change the decree to a positive ending. It sounds like an easy task, yet every year we fall short of our goal.

Some weeks it’s hard to figure out what I should write about. This week is not one of them. There is plenty to write about, such as the situation in Afghanistan, my first Mets game since the pandemic began, or the Five Boro Bike Tour. However, I will not cover any of those. Instead, I will give a New Year’s message. In the secular New Year, people look back at what happened globally. For us, the focus is on the individual.