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After the Tsunami: Where Do We Go From Here?

by Rabbi Yosef Y. Jacobson

  

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No words
There are really no words.
Any words used to describe this week's great tragedy appear hollow, vain -- even manipulative. We feel shock, horror and awe. The right choice at this time is to focus our energy on doing everything we can and beyond to help the five million shattered lives and displaced persons.

How the serene oceans can turn so cruel, not differentiating between soda cans and angelic children!

How beautiful beaches can become grave sites of countless innocents!

In their villages, huts, homes and hotels, on their beaches and in their streets, in a Hiroshima-scale disaster, infants, children, teenagers, mothers, fathers, grandparents and entire families have been destroyed in the blink of an eye.

Where is the pen that can capture the grief of a Swedish mother who pleads for any information on her 4-year-old daughter, who was swept from her father's arms by the giant wave in Phi Phi, Thailand? You could repeat this story tens of thousands of times and grieve for 120,000 divine universes snuffed out in a single instance.

The world became a darker place on Sunday, Dec. 26, 2004. Who can estimate how much light these 120,000 great souls - and which human soul is not great - cast upon our planet with their love, laughter, spirits and indeed, with their very life? Yet the raging waves did not take notice. Tranquil waters turned into devilish monsters, extinguishing the glow of generations, quenching the flames of eternity.

Man cannot make peace with the existence of evil in the world... For the mystics, this is the stamp of the divine in the consciousness of every human being no matter faith or creed that makes him or her sense that the world is governed by moral justice
Why? How?
The greatest question
For the atheist, "why" does not constitute a serious question. "Why not?" would be the accurate response to the question of why. Do we expect tidal waves to be sensitive to the cries of parents whose children have been swept away by the ferocious sea? Do we expect a tsunami to interrupt its ferocious advance and declare, "Hey, I see a nice man walking there; let me leave him alone?" If nature has evolved and is governed by pure chance and coincidence, it must be amoral. Evil and suffering, in the doctrine of atheism, make perfect sense.

Yet notwithstanding this justification of human suffering, all of us - believers and nonbelievers alike - never cease to ask "why?" Why do innocent people suffer? How can 120,000 human beings perish so tragically? When natural disaster strikes and claims the lives of innocents, the very core of our identity senses that something very wrong has occurred, that nature
should have behaved differently. Man, by his very nature, cannot make peace with the existence of evil in the world.

For the mystics, this is the stamp of the divine in the consciousness of every human being no matter faith or creed that makes him or her sense that the world is governed by moral justice. When reality smacks that belief in the face, we cry out "why?" How can a moral and benevolent Creator tolerate and cause so much anguish to innocent human beings, including thousands of pure and sweet children? How?

In Ivan Karamazov's words:
"Tell me frankly, I appeal to you answer me: Imagine that it is you yourself who are erecting the edifice of human destiny with the aim of making men happy in the end, of giving them peace and contentment at last, but that to do that it is absolutely necessary, and indeed quite inevitable, to torture to death only one tiny creature, the little girl who beat her breast with her little fist, and to found the edifice on her un-avenged tears -- would you consent to be the architect on those conditions? Tell me and do not lie!" (The Brothers Karamazov, by Dostoyevsky).

Never in history did G-d answer this question, the greatest of all questions and the one good argument for atheism. The book of Job, dedicated to the question of why the innocent suffer, concludes with a revelation of G-d to Job, telling him, in essence, that there is no way the human mind can create the logical constructs in which G-d's behavior can fit. The finite and the infinite just don't meet. When it comes to human suffering, there is no humanly fathomable answer. Let us not endeavor to explain and rationalize what can never be explained and rationalized.


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Tsunami proves existence of G-d

Posted by: Anonymous on Jan 05, 2005

It says in the Talmud (Brachot 59a): "When the Holy One--blessed be He!--remembers that His children are in trouble among the nations of the world, He drops two tears into the great ocean, the noise of which startles the world from one end to the other, and causes the earth to quake."

Could this allude to the increasing amounts of anti-Semitism and the Israeli-Arab conflict being the trouble and the terrible tsunami being the quake? I think it does.

Tsunami accident

Posted by: Ran, Antwerpen, Belgium on Jan 06, 2005

I read your article and found a lot of stuff I never thought about before ...
But you didn't answer the real question ...
You just kept making your explanation longer and longer ....
You can just say that no man understands what God does and thinks for God is not human! so He doesn't think because thinking is a human function...
We have certain limits and there are things which we do not understand and if God "GAVE" us those limits it is for a reason...
I think we should not interfere!
We should not say WHY!! And start helping those poor millions of people without homes and food!
(Tip : Next time just write what you want to say. Don't care about the criticism people will give!)

MDA

Posted by: Anonymous on Jan 06, 2005

I JUST FOUND OUT ABOUT MDA. MAGEN DAVID ADOM, USA. IT IS ISRAEL'S ONLY OFFICIAL EMERGENCY MEDICAL DISASTER AMBULANCE AND BLOOD BANK SERVICE. JEWS CAN SEND A DONATION IN SUPPORT OF THE SRI- LANKA RELIEF EFFORTS. I WANTED TO HELP BUT NOT THROUGH A REGULAR CHARITY.

THANK YOU

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