Last sunday afternoon, I was sitting in synagogue listening to the Rabbi give a little drash in between Mincha and Maariv. I honestly can’t remember what he talking about (maybe it’ll come back to me as I’m writing this…), but he did mention something rather disturbing that was occurring in Israel.
He said that Israel was facing one of its worst droughts in recent history – there had been no rain since the beginning of fall/winter season. The situation had become so dire that Rabbis were calling on the people of Israel, particularly secular farmers to attend a mass prayer at the Western Wall, as well as to undertake a day of fasting. (Check out more about that story here or here.)
And now, amidst the unusual weather patterns, Israel gets hit with its worst fire in history.
According to police and other reports, 41 people have died and dozens more have been injured as result of the fire that began in the Carmel Mountain and forest area in Northern Israel, which is south of Haifa. More than 12,000 people have been evacuated from their homes, including those in Kibbutz Beit Oren, a farm situated in the area that was razed.
The casualties were said to be Israeli prison guards whom were rescuing inmates and others located inside the Damon prison, which was threatened by the blaze.
Here are a few more details from a report from Yahoo News:
Investigators speculated that the fire could have been sparked accidentally, or it might have been deliberately set. But they largely ruled out any sort of attack by a Palestinian group.
The fire broke out around midday and quickly spread, fanned by unusually hot and dry conditions. Israel experienced an exceptionally warm summer and has had little rain during the normally wet autumn.
Flames ripped through the Carmel forest in Israel’s Galilee region, eventually reaching the coastal city of Haifa after jumping from place to place in the forest.
As guards raced toward the nearby Damon prison, a lone tree fell across the road, blocking their path. With no way out, many of them were burned alive inside the vehicle. Others perished while trying to flee the flames fed by brush left tinder-dry by lack of rain.
Israel’s call was a rare appeal for international assistance. The Jewish state is better known for sending its own rescue teams and medical personnel to other countries to help in their disaster-relief efforts.
Now that we’ve heard about all that’s happened, we’re now left to deal with consequences. Personally, I think there’s something weird going on negatively affecting Israel.
And while I’m not one of those folk who say that bad things happen because people sin and do bad things, truth be told, bad things don’t just happen. And while it’s not my job to preach to the masses just why these bad things happen (I’ll leave that to Muslim priests, like those who said that Hurricane Katrina and the Haiti earthquakes happened because of the immodesty of Western civilization), I honestly can’t help but think that there’s something we individuals can do to help right the course.
And I’m not talking about making financial donations to help those suffering from the aforementioned events – and of course by no means am I belittling how important it is to do things like that. I’m talking about altering the way we interpret everyday things and how go about our own business.
And this is where I come back to the Rabbi’s drash about no rain in Israel (I remember what he was talking about!): He said that even the secular farmers as well as the meteorologists could come up with no tangible reason or solution as to why there had been such little precipitation this season, so much so that they felt that they had no other choice but to join along others in prayer and other deeds, with hopes that they could make a difference.
You might think that having to resort to prayer is a last-ditch option, having come to a point where you can’t explain what the heck is going on, but I think that’s faulty logic. The fact that you can’t explain what’s going is not a failure, but rather a success in understanding that things don’t always pan out the way you expect, and when things do go awry, there’s a way of being alright with this truth and that there’s always something to turn to when the occasion does arise.
And our goal isn’t to figure what is the problem or why things happen, but rather the acknowledgement that they just do and G-d has a damn good reason why. All we need to do is trust in his decisions, because he wouldn’t put us in a situation of failure and set us up for something like that. In fact, I wouldn’t even consider it a failure, since if you end up acknowledging you messed up or things didn’t pan out, that itself is a success by means of knowing this.
So where am I going with this? Like all other natural disasters that we deem beyond human control or cause, they all show us that no matter how much we think we can control things and make things happen regardless of what stands in our way, G-d is the real dude behind all that happens, whether we like it or not. (And yes, I called G-d a dude…my mistake, I meant The Dude.)
And while one might also ask, how come this is happening amidst the Hannukah season – a time where we celebrate the miracles that came to the Jewish people? These forest fire would seem precisely like the opposite of a miracle…My thoughts are no different then what I’ve already said regarding the forest fires: G-d made things happen because that’s the way things were supposed to happen. So why did he save the Jewish people amidst their own spiritual forest fire – yes… that’s what I’m calling it? Because they Maccabees never strayed from their beliefs and remained faithful to G-d in the face of the hazardous flames of Greek assimilation.
So what can we do? We can trust G-d a little more. Pray to him. Maybe even tell G-d (and ourselves), “you know what, sure I messed up and bad things happen, but what else can I do but believe that you’ve got my best interests in mind… I just can’t see it now, but I hope you can grant me some clarity in understanding that and accepting it.”
And here’s a tangible example of what we can do: Come December 4th (or 5th), there’s a small alteration in the prayer services that we make in the Amidah in the blessing of prosperity where we change “ve ten bracha” to “ve ten tal umatar.” Translated, this means we go from “give us blessings” to “give dew and rain for a blessing”. Although this blessing is added much earlier in the calendar in Israel (7th of Cheshvan), you gotta think it only seems appropriate that we’ve come to the point of the calendar now following all the things that have happened in the present time. To make my point a little clearer, you may wanna read up on the significance of the word change here.
But rather than just acknowledging that the change has to be made and then simply doing it (sound familiar?), maybe we should add a little more oomph into that bracha. And if oomph doesn’t do it for ya, do whatever you feel necessary to make that bracha more meaningful, whether or not it’s done during the actual recitation of the blessing or while doing whatever we do during the day.
In a sense, that extra oomph is also the essence of Hanukkah: but I’ll save that message for another “soon to posted, Hanukkah related post.”
It’s also no coincidence too, that I’ve been thinking whole calendar year so far, I hope G-d “let’s it rain” for me… regardless of what that rain maybe, i just hope that a) it comes in abundance, b) it’s a rain of prosperity – and not acidic, & c) I know how to use that rain properly once it comes in my possession.
But in conclusion, here’s hoping G-d let’s the rain fall for all of us, both more importantly for Israel, especially during this time of peril.