Tsunami: The Day the World Shook to its Core
By Rabbi Ben Tzion Krasnianski
Sunday, December 26, will forever be remembered as the day that the worst tragedy in our generation struck without warning, out of the clear blue sky. The world shook to its core, leaving 120,000 confirmed dead and still rising. Six billion people had a front row seat as the gut wrenching images of a tragedy of biblical proportions flashed around the globe. In just minutes a 30 foot wall of water, racing across the Indian Ocean at 500 miles per hour, smashed into two continents and into twelve countries.
The magnitude of the disaster is a nine on the Richter scale of tragedies. While the sadness is unbearable and the tragedy is overwhelming, we've also experienced an unprecedented explosion of goodness. The outpouring of goodness and selflessness was titanic, surely G-d must have been smiling. In a moment of truth it became evident that unlike the biblical era of the flood, the world today is essentially righteous with goodness at its core. The universal rallying to help the survivors, and the placing aside of petty divisions will go down in history as one of the most heart warming moments when our generation sparkled and shone brilliantly.
No less astounding was the survivor’s tales and their stories of open miracles and wonders. The prayer on Rosh Hashana: who shall live and who shall die, took on a whole new meaning for millions of people. Listening to the survivor’s tales, it’s crystal clear that there are no coincidences, for there but for the Grace of G-d go I.
Yet for 120,000 people there was no miracle. Can a Jew make peace with such a tragedy? G-d shook the world to the core and we too are shaken to the core. While it’s true that we have complete faith that everything that happens, down to tiniest most exquisite detail is by Divine providence. As we advance in our knowledge and understanding of the world it only confirms our gut feeling that there is a G-d who runs the world. With each passing day we see even clearer the deep inherent unity and harmony in all of creation. Each and every one of us is made up of billions of atoms and all of them miraculously work together in perfect harmony.
When it comes to what we don’t know and don’t understand we are billionaires. The human mind is inherently limited and so impoverished, that we cannot possibly see the bigger picture. We are like the Aborigine who steps foot for the first time into a hospital and is shocked by what he witnesses: Ten men and women dressed in white strapping down a poor helpless victim, who then proceed to mercilessly cut him open with knives. His logical conclusion would be that they are a bunch of heartless cold blooded murderers! The analogy is not accurate only in that the distance between us and G-d is a billion times, no infinite times greater then the difference between the Aborigine and those doctors.
Yet, despite our faith in G-d, or rather because of our faith in G-d, when a Jew is confronted with tragedy he is shaken to the core. Because Jews believe in a perfect world and in a perfect world there could be no tragedies. The Torah teaches us that when G-d created the world it was literally a paradise, a Garden of Eden. Even today the world at its core is inherently a Garden of Eden. At Mt. Sinai for a brief few days we experienced the world once again the Garden of Eden. Ever since, that vision of wholeness is hard wired into every Jew, consequently we can’t make peace with the status quo.
The truth be told, this belief in wholeness is hardwired into every human being. Job (19:26), states: from my flesh I know G-d. We see that when it comes to our physical health we refuse to compromise even on our toenail. The logical position would be to make peace with a little illness since nobody is perfect. All the doctors we know are doing well and there seems to be a never ending supply of patients who suffer from the many ailments that plague and afflicts us all. Yet, the human position, universally, is to fight illness. People will gladly bankrupt themselves and undergo the most painful procedure in order to regain their health. They will not compromise and not settle for anything less than perfect optimal health. Why?
Because deep down we know G-d with every fiber of our being and every bone in our body, we experientially and intimately know, in our guts, in our kishkes, perfection and wholeness. Consequently, we refuse to compromise on our health, despite all the logical arguments and all the evidence to the contrary!
For the same reason, a Jew cannot make peace with tragedy. It shakes us to the core. When G-d told Avraham that he was going to wipe our Sodom & Gomorrah he wrestled with G–d. When G-d told Moshe that he was going to wipe out the Jewish people he gave G-d an ultimatum! When a Jew is confronted by tragedy he’s commanded to not surrender and accept it fatalistically, rather to pray and to storm heaven in order to nullify the terrible decree. Because in a perfect world that is wholesome, goodness like health is absolutely and consistently good. Not only are the ends good, but the means how we get there are tangibly good.
If a Jew needed another reminder that the status quo is unbearable and that we desperately need Moshiach now, this epic tragedy will hopefully be the last reminder that something is terribly wrong with the status quo. The picture as we see it is crooked, lopsided and upside down.
Moshiach isn’t a pleasant wish, a sweet dream or a comforting illusion but an urgent necessity. The Jerusalem Talmud (Tractate Yoma 5:A) states: A generation that hasn’t witnessed the rebuilding of the Temple it’s as if the Temple has been destroyed in their generation. The Babylonian Talmud (Tractate Sotah 49:A) phrases it differently: There isn’t a day in exile that isn’t worse than its predecessor. In other words, the status quo is intolerable and unbearable; the ongoing exile is a daily assault, a brand new insult and a fresh destruction!
Every day that the breakthrough of Moshiach doesn’t materialize, we discover a deeper, darker stratum of the Exile. Whenever we think that we’ve seen it all, along comes a tragedy that breaks even the most jaded of hearts. One hundred and twenty thousand people and counting are swept away in minutes to their sudden death! The exile becomes ever more painful and ever more intolerable with each passing day.
A Jew must take personal responsibility for everything that happens in the world. As the verse (Ecclesiastis 3:11) states: The world he placed in their heart. We are a microcosm and whatever happens externally in the macrocosm is merely a reflection of what’s happening internally in the microcosm. Any change for the better, the slightest shift in our hearts and minds and in our personal life, directly impacts the entire universe.
This is codified in Jewish Law (Maimonides, Laws of Teshuvah 3:4): One should always view the good and evil in himself and in the world as being in perfect balance. Should he perform a single mitzvah, he will tip the scale and bring deliverance and redemption to himself and to the entire world.
While we pray to G-d to send a complete recovery to the injured, let us create a positive, an inner spiritual tsunami-earthquake in our own hearts. Let us shake ourselves to the very core and awaken from our inner complacency.
Let millions of Jews from around the world gather in shul this Shabbos for a soul stirring experience that will devastate and lay waste to all that’s negative and unwholesome in our lives. Let us bring our lives into focus which will instantly revolutionize human consciousness and bring the whole world once again into sharp focus. Let us unite and be ready to receive the greatest blessing of all, and the end to all human tragedies, the coming of Moshiach now!