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G-d and Harvey

L’Fi Dati: As I See It

A message from Rabbi Weintraub

From our history:

In ancient Israel, the Ninth Century BCE was a time of material prosperity but also of political and social corruption. Opportunistic Kings like Ahab made alliances with foreign rulers to enrich themselves, while impoverishing large parts of the population. In addition, these rulers brought in fatalistic, amoral pagan fertility cults, such as Baal worship.

In that environment, the great prophet Elijah rose up to champion the oppressed, the Covenant of Torah and the one, universal G-d. Ahab then persecuted Elijah and his followers, who had to run for their lives. In one dramatic scene, Elijah takes refuge in the Sinai wilderness at the place where G-d first made the covenant with Israel.

At that point, “There was a mighty wind, splitting mountains and shattering rocks, bur G-d was not in the wind. After the wind, an earthquake but G-d was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake, a fire, but G-d was not in the fire. And after the fire, a still small voice” (I Kings 19:11-12) This still small voice command Elijah to go back to Israel, to return to his mission of rallying the people for justice, for equality, for the values of their Torah.

G-d is not in the hurricane. Nature is amoral. It is uncaring and incapable of distinguishing between good people and bad people. G-d does not batter shorelines, destroy homes, engulf freeways, or tear children form their parents, Olam k”minhago noheg, the Talmudic Rabbis conclude, nature follows its course, according to impersonal and amoral physical laws.

“But after the fire, a still small voice”. G-d is found in our responses to the floods, the hurricanes,, and the fires. G-d is found in the thousands of acts of altruism and bravery this past week which bit by bit will allow the shattered residents of Houston to pick up the pieces of their lives and put them back together again. I know for example that Conservative Congregation Beth Yeshurun in Houston, one of the largest Conservative synagogues in North America, took on heavy flooding and that the homes of four of their Rabbis and at least 500 Congregants were flooded. Harvey may destroy their floors and furniture and maybe even their Sifrei Kodesh, sacred books, but it will not destroy their faith and the bonds of love between them.

And for us? Don’t let geographical distance translate into emotional distance.

Hatzala, life-saving rescue, is a pre-eminent Mitzvah. On the day before Shabbat, as on the Day before Holidays, we give Tzedaka. Contribute to one of the many worthy organizations helping in the rescue and rehabilitation of displaced people. Join us in Shul this Shabbat in prayer for the people in flood-affected areas, for the rescuers, and for their G-d given generosity and courage. And support rational urban development, and the preservation of wetlands and greenspace, so that when natural disasters occur we have not already compromised nature’s built-in protections.

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Weintraub

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