Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

24 Teves 5765 - January 5, 2005 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Opinion & Comment
The Message of an Earthquake

One minute they were sunning themselves in the middle of a carefree vacation at the beach. The next they were struggling for their lives in the raging torrent that poured in from the sea.

A reminder that life is fragile. A reminder that man does not dominate his environment completely but that his environment can easily overwhelm him in an instant. A reminder that there are greater powers than ourselves, and that there is a Great Power Who is behind it all.

Eliahu z"l explained to Rav Nehorai that when HaKodosh Boruch Hu sees all the pleasure palaces of the world sitting serene and that His Beis Hamikdash is destroyed, he looks at the world to destroy it. [And that can bring earthquakes.] However when He sees Yisroel going to shul and saying, Shema Yisroel . . . and the angels gather and say, "You are there before the world, and once the world was created. You are in This World and in the World to Come. Sanctify Your Name upon those who sanctify it." — then He is calmed and does not destroy the world. . . . Hashem shakes the world because of the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash . . . (Based on Yalkut Shimoni, Devorim, 836)

It is a very basic lesson, but one that is apparently very hard to learn in the world as it is: that Hashem is constantly supervising the world.

In the Beis Hamikdash, where the presence of the Shechinah was evident in addition to the ten constant miracles, there was no forgetting the link between the world and Hashem. Now that it has long been destroyed, there is no special place like that where the Presence is so strong. People do not feel this Presence, and they become involved in their own worlds, especially in those pleasure palaces that are dedicated to glorifying the body beyond all proper proportion. One who is engrossed in the theater, for example, will forget the Presence of Hashem. The spectacle is designed to make its audience totally involved in it, to the exclusion of everything else. That causes, as it were, Hashem to shake things up to remind everyone that He is still there.

One might think that this is a lesson that can be learned once and for all. Is it so hard?

However we see that the Torah itself insists that we all review it twice daily in saying and focusing on Krias Shema. Everyone must do this from children to the greatest sages. Its content seems simple enough, but truly learning it is very hard. In a sense it is an important message of all Torah and mitzvah fulfillment. We spend our whole lives learning it.

An interesting affirmation of this was provided in some of the reports that came back of Jews who were caught in the rushing waters. No one sang Hatikvah or declaimed the Independence Scroll of the State of Israel. Rather they screamed out Shema Yisroel with all of their strength — and were answered by other Jews in the vicinity. It was that fundamental expression of the deepest Jewish truth that burst forth in that time of extreme danger. Even if those unfortunate Jews did not review this lesson twice a day prior to that morning, it is nonetheless a truth that is part of their soul.

The images of that terrible disaster in the Indian Ocean may help us to learn the lesson, but we hope that we do not have to live through such an experience to implant this truth on our soul, and that our daily review will be sufficient. Hopefully, the entire world will also learn something.

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