Newsletter             November 1, 2012 - 16 Cheshvan 5773

When Disaster Hits

Dedicated to the Victims of Hurricane Sandy

Years earlier, Abraham saved Sodom from their 9-11 and won a great military victory. He refused to be paid as a mercenary and left his nephew, Lot, to spread The Word, and try to influence the people. 

With only prayer in his arsenal to save Sodom from its Hurricane Sandy, Abraham fails. He does not question his choice to wage war for Sodom, nor does he regret the effort. He does not lose his faith in the power of prayer; rather, he returns to "Ground Zero", the place of his failed prayer, and views the devastation, and looking ahead to the future. The Talmud derives from his return to Sodom that Abraham instituted the Morning Prayer; Abraham insisted that we always use prayer to look forward.


It sounds quite nice, but I wonder whether Abraham had it easier than do we. He had a warning and a reason as well from the only reliable spiritual authority. God appeared to Abraham and told him that a storm was coming to Sodom because of her evil. We had a few days warning, but no one imagined the degree of Sandy's devastation. As far as I know, God did not appear to anyone to warn that the East Coast would be punished for her evil.


While many wonder about God's message in sending Sandy, if it was a message, the tightly packaged biblical story of Sodom didn't teach anyone other than Abraham. People didn't question why she was destroyed or why Lot was saved. They had gossip that was juicier than Governor Christie praising President Obama, and far more interesting than God's reason for destroying four important cities. People were talking about Lot fathering two children with his daughters. Abraham gazed upon this scene, dumbstruck by the topic of conversation, and couldn't believe that people were not asking, "Why?" How can anyone not want to understand what happened? Abraham knew that he would have no influence as long as gossip was more interesting than the search for answers. He chose to move to Gerar, where the king used Abrahamic arguments in a conversation with God: "O my Master, will You slay a nation even though it is righteous (Genesis 20:4)." Abraham preferred to live in a spiritually and dangerous place, where they seriously considered his teachings, than to live in a place without seekers.


I rage against those who offer simplistic answers for difficult questions, but never against those who ask. Abrahams are only possible when we desperately search for answers. I rejoice over each text and email asking, "What is God teaching us," despite their overwhelming my dying phone, and my inability to answer the question. Conversations about "why," "was Sandy an 'act of God',"  "was it Divine Providence that killed some people," are fertile soil for profound growth, for an Abraham to appear and offer a consistent and serious perspective.


There was another biblical city similar in character to Sodom, Giveah, but there was no Divine clarity granted to the people who chose to punish her behavior, because, "In those days, there was no king in Israel (Judges 19:1, 21:25)," people were talking about sex scandals and not of kingly matters. There was no Abraham to guide them. There could not be an Abraham in a society that searched for juicy gossip rather than seek answers for important questions.


I sincerely believe that we can create an environment that can produce an Abraham. I hope that we will spend the few days before we decide "kingly matters," being seekers of important truths, demanding serious answers to our profound questions.

Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Simcha L. Weinberg
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