Days after Hurricane Sandy touched down, we published a post entitled, Insights from Chazal on Hurricanes! This post was followed by another which revealed new ways How Your Organization Can Raise Hurricane Sandy Relief Funds. While the clean up is under way, many people have questions and are searching for religious responses to the devastation of Sandy. The following are a collection of thoughtful and insightful articles devoted to exploring religious responses to Hurricane Sandy.
We are linking to the words of rabbis such as Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein and Rabbi Moshe Weinberger that appear on other sites—and are also publishing below the writing of Rabbi Ron Yitzchok Eisenman and Rabbi Dovid Winiarz.
Insightful Links and Articles
Life Lessons from Hurricane Sandy
Observations on Hurricane Sandy
So much has occurred this past week and a half; I hardly know where to begin.
In my position as president of Survival through Education and the OZ behind the curtain in my role as the Facebuker Rebbe, I feel an obligation, albeit a privilege as well, to share my impressions with you about the recent events brought on by HurricaneSandy. What follows are my opinions and, while firmly based in Torah philosophy, there may be those who think differently than I do. My goal is not to offend but, rather, to enlighten. I respect your right to choose to believe differently but my thoughts are offered unapologetically and with much love.
Indeed, the questions are many but the shortest and easiest to pronounce is “Why?” From a Torah perspective, the easiest answer is a simple, “why not?” G-d is perfect. On the assumption that you believe G-d exists and still plays an active role in our lives He has the ultimate authority to do as He pleases. He sees our lives as a chess master sees the board with the added benefit of knowing the outcome of the game because He is, and was, beyond time.
Are we expected to throw in the towel, therefore, and not try to understand why what happens, happens? Chazal/our leaders from previous generations and Rabbinic leaders of today teach that, when tragedy strikes, we are to examine our deeds. To what standard do we examine our deeds? In Judaism, there is only one standard. The Torah standard is the great equalizer. The Torah (according to all rational thinkers – including over 2 billion Christians and Muslims) was given to the Jewish people all together at the foot of Mount Sinai. It has promises in there that no human(s) could ever have made because future history would have proven them false had they been wrong. To that end, even if people choose not to observe the Torah and its laws, the thinking person will accept that that simply makes them “less observant” The Torah is perfect; it came from G-d. When we are hit with a Hurricane Sandy, we should examine our deeds (or misdeeds) according to the instruction Manual.
What does the Manual say? The Torah teaches us to emulate G-d. In this past week’s Torah reading G-d visited the patriarch Abraham. Do we care enough for the sick and infirm or do we rely on big government to do it for us? Hurricanes and other “natural disasters” bring out the g-dliness in us.
We can avoid G-ds reminders to be like Him by simply being like Him first.
The Torah teaches that a rainbow is a symbol of the Bris/covenant that G-d made between Himself and Noach that He would never destroy the world by flood. The rainbow was given to us with instructions that we should never gaze directly at the rainbow because it is G-ds way of saying “you deserve to be destroyed collectively but I am holding back because of my promise” Why did G-d bring the first flood (and possibly Hurricane Sandy)? The entire world was corrupt in those days. Thievery was the normal modus operandi. Are we honest in business? Do we treat each other properly or do we look for every excuse to rip the other person off? Are we honest when we file with Uncle Sam or do we lie and cheat there, as well? Honesty and good will tend to rise to the top, like cream, after a super storm that leaves people homeless and, in some cases, hopeless. We humans were created in G-ds image but we forget that we can avoid tsunamis and such when we let that G-dliness shine through.
We are not punished because we are bad people. We are punished because we are good and G-d wants us to be great. Most people do not give as much attention to the homeless as they do their own children. That is natural. A person will spend more time, with more scrutiny, focusing on those they care about. Mother Nature is a figment of people’s imagination. People blame Mother Nature for things to avoid having to take responsibility for things that they would have to if they acknowledged that G-d did it. G-d is Mother Nature. Mother Nature is G-d. When Mother Nature speaks to us, it behooves us to listen because G-d only wants what is best for us.
People speak of compassionate conservatives and caring liberals. When disaster strikes labels fall away. This week I got an email from every big bank I owe money to (and there are many) stating that fees would be waived and cooperation extended to victims of Hurricane Sandy. I got phone calls from liberal organizations that otherwise shun me begging me to accept their aid packages because I live in Staten Island. I couldn’t get through to them that I was not in need but I would pass on the goodness. Everybody helps everybody so much that, if this would be a regular occurrence, there would be no need for government handouts or G-d to send messages like Hurricane Sandy.
I think what I took out of the past week and a half is best summed up with the recognition that G-d loves us so much that He is willing to turn off our power, emails, Facebook and cell phones just to whisper in our ear. At the same time, we need to remember that we are not punished because we are bad people; we are punished because we are good and G-d wants us to be great. If we do not heed that lesson than G-d will not whisper in our ear; He will roar the message, loud and clear.
The lesson of Sandy should not be one we learn and forget.
It is one, from the One, who wants us to remember.