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September 2, 2014 / 7 Elul, 5774
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Where was God When Hurricane Sandy Struck?

In the face of these natural disasters there are always those who are trying to divine the mind of God when really their role as humans is to argue with God.
Mid Atlantic Coast Prepares For Hurricane Sandy

What was G-d thinking when he sent Hurricane Sandy and what could have been its purpose?

In truth, I don’t much care, because our role as humans is not to understand G-d’s plan in the face of horror and tragedy, but to challenge God and demand that human life always be protected and preserved.

Did I say demand? Yes, humanity has rights before God. We are His children. He commanded us to preserve and promote life always. “Choose life,” Moses orders the Israelite nation in God’s name, on the last day of His life. And the Creator must abide by the same dictates He expects His creatures to.

Reading The New York Times story today about the approximately 39 people who died in the storm, I was sick to my stomach. I read it out loud to my kids over our candlelit dinner in a home with no electricity or heat. They could not listen any more. There was the Manhattan woman whose only sin was to walk her dog and was killed by a falling tree. There was the woman whose iniquity was to take a picture of a downed power line. She did not see the puddle in front of her. Her body, the Times reported, was on fire for half an hour before rescue workers could salvage what was left of her. There was the young Jewish couple killed walking a dog in Brooklyn. There were the two boys in New York state killed when they walked just outside their house to peer at the storm briefly.

Did any of these people deserve to die?

In the face of these natural disasters there are always those who are trying to divine the mind of God when really their role as humans is to argue with God. That’s exactly what the name Israel means, He who wrestles with God. Isn’t that what Abraham does in this week’s Torah reading where he raises his fist to the heavens and proclaims, in the face of God’s announcement that he is destroying all the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah, “Will the judge of the entire earth not Himself practice justice?” Would God really allow the righteous to die along with the wicked?

Is this not also what Moses says to God after he is told that the Jews will be annihilated for the sin of the Golden calf? If you do so, says the great prophet, “then I beseech you, erase my name from the Torah You have written.”

And when God had earlier sent Moses to free the Jews from Egypt but Pharaoh had instead intensified their suffering and servitude, Moses, defiant, says to God, “Why have you behaved wickedly to this people, and why have you sent me… You have thus far not saved Your people.”

The role of human beings in the face of seeming divine miscarriages of justice is hold God accountable and demand clemency for humanity. God is all powerful. He does not need a defense attorney. But humans are fragile and vulnerable and they need all the protection they can get.

Today me, my family, and our campaign staff toured the devastation of our district. We saw cities deluged in flood waters, homes with trees crashed down on their roofs. We witnessed long lines of cars of people trying to buy gas, including tens of people with gas canisters waiting in line for hours. And as far as our campaign is concerned,, it has been reduced to me and our staff sitting in the Garden State Mall tonight plugged into a single outlet on the floor trying to charge our laptops and phones. All this is an inconvenience and, God willing, we’ll dig out. But the people who buried children, the residents who will never again see a spouse, the citizens will mourn parents, my God, my God, what are they to do?

I have grown weary of those who say that suffering is somehow redemptive, that it carries with it a positive outcome. I do not deny that this is at times so. Those who suffer can sometimes emerge humbler, wiser, gentler. But let’s get real. There is nothing beneficial that comes from suffering that could have not been achieved far more effectively through a positive means. To the contrary, suffering leaves us broken and cynical, disbelieving and forlorn, miserable and depressed.

It is time we human beings agreed to wage an all out war on suffering so that it is never excused as something blessed again.

Never again should we say that earthquakes in Haiti are caused by a compact the Haitians had earlier made with the devil. Never again should we say that Israeli soldiers die becauseKibbutznikim eat rabbit and other non-kosher meat. Never again should we say that innocent Palestinians, who are used as human shields by the terrorist monsters of Hamas and Hezbollah, die because of the wrath of Allah. And never again must we say that the Jews of the holocaust died because they wanted to be cease being Jewish, choosing to be German instead.

Because I am disgusted with this kind of thought, I wrote a full-length book that is to be published in November called The Fed-Up Man of Faith: Challenging God in the Face of Tragedy and Suffering. But I could not have divined, when I wrote it, that the place I live would have experienced such immense devastation.

The Bible in Deuteronomy is clear. “The hidden things are for G-d to understand, but the revealed things are for us and our children.” Why G-d allows good people to suffer is a secret known to him. But we human beings ought to have no interest in knowing the secret. What we want, what we demand, is that the suffering stop completely so that God and humanity can finally be reconciled, after a long history of human travail and agony, in a bright and blessed future, bereft of suffering, absent of tragedy, and filled with blessing.

About the Author: Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, “America’s Rabbi” whom the Washington Post calls “the most famous Rabbi in America,” is the international best-selling author of 29 books, including The Fed-up Man of Faith: Challenging God in the Face of Tragedy and Suffering. Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.


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37 Responses to “Where was God When Hurricane Sandy Struck?”

  1. Liad Bar-el says:

    When major tragedies happen, it seems to me that if one is not repentant, humbled, thankful to G-d for being alive and to be inspired to teach others to be the same but rather to be ungrateful and defiant towards G-d and to teach others to be the same as you’ve done in this article, then it could be, heaven forbid, that the next time there will be a storm, you just might be the one who will step into an electrified puddle of water. Let’s hope that this will not happen and that also we all will not be like the horse and mule that have to be bridled with a painful mouth bit so as to be controlled by pain. Let’s hope rather that we will learn to be humble and to follow HaShem with every word and with every adventure and step we take in life. From what I have read from you so far, Shmuley, what you have learned in social psychology class has replaced what you have learned in the Torah. IMO, you are not going to win votes in truth with such a stance in life.

  2. Liad Bar-el says:

    When major tragedies happen, it seems to me that if one is not repentant, humbled, thankful to G-d for being alive and to be inspired to teach others to be the same but rather to be ungrateful and defiant towards G-d and to teach others to be the same as you’ve done in this article, then it could be, Heaven forbid, that the next time there will be a storm, he just might be the one who will step into an electrified puddle of water. Let’s hope that this will not happen and that also we all will not be like the horse and mule that have to be bridled with a painful mouth bit so as to be controlled by pain in order to do the right action. (Ps 32:9) Let’s hope rather that we will learn to be humble and to follow and trust in G-d with every word and with every adventure and step we take in life so that G-d will surround us with loving-kindness. (Ps 32:10)

    From what I have read from you so far, Shmuley, I see that what you have learned in social psychology class has replaced what you have learned in the Torah. In your Torah studies, you would have learned that not even a leaf falls from the tree without it being allowed by G-d. He is in charge and we are not to be defiant against Him. The Torah is full of stories of those who were defiant against G-d and they all met a tragic end. IMO, you as a Jew are not going to win political votes in truth from your supporting Gentiles by pandering to them for votes by arrogantly denying Judaism’s beliefs in the workings of G-d to help us repent, to be humble and to be thankful to G-d for whatever He does. Such a denial just might bring on another and stronger disaster in your area, Heaven forbid.

  3. Tzvi Fishman says:

    G-d decreed that the exile would be a curse, but the Jews turned it into Altantic City. Then they wonder why a hurricane slammed into their neighborhoods and luxury homes.
    http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/felafel-on-rye/cleverer-than-god/2012/11/01/

  4. There are two kinds of people within the Judeo-Christian community, ones who think they are God and those who believe in God. God ask that we make a choice, then He will hear our prayers. God hears the prayer of the righteous man or woman. Righteous means one who is RIGHT with God. Until then He will let us know who is in charge of the universe which includes all the USA and Isreal.

  5. Regina Gradess says:

    Where were we when G-d’s laws of nature were callously disregarded leading to global climate change? Where are we now? Will we find alternatives to fossil fuels? Will we challenge the large corporations that don’t want to see their profits fall if everyone uses individual energy sources?

  6. I hope you didn't write this article to sell another book!

  7. Edward Lobel says:

    Rabbi, to answer your question, g-d was with President Obama eating corned beef sandwhiches (from Katz's) and washing them down with some Dr. Browns, g-d had cel-ray and President Obama had black cheery. they were discussing how to make the Lying repubs tell the truth, and g-d decided he would being the plague of a late super strong hurricane down on the east coast, curtailing willards campaigning in Virginia and making him look like the fool he is. As hard as President Obama tried to convince g-d that that was not a good idea and that people could get hurt and maybe die, g-d responded, they are NOT RIGHTEOUS and LIARS my son and I have no use for people who LIE to their fellow man!

  8. Anonymous says:

    I don't think the Rabbi is a very original thinker. There's nothing new about his theme. And if he's running for political office, blaming God for problems really isn't very reassuring.

  9. Larry Snider says:

    Rabbi Boteach,
    I believe we have free will and live lives still under the watchful eyes of G-d. Right now those eyes are filled with sadness for the loss of life and the great suffering of his people. We are challenged to live righteous lives, to do good and to look out for the stranger. All the rest is simply beyond our comprehension.

  10. Myriam Obadia says:

    We brought hurricane Sandy on our own heads by voting in power the laquais of the multinational corporations which have been destroying the normal climate G-d gave us. If not for G-d, millions would have died instead of a mere 50. Yes it's a tragedy, but stop blaming G-d for our own mess.

  11. Myriam Obadia says:

    exactly!

  12. Anonymous says:

    No wonder the Rabbi went into politics, the profession at the top of the list before prostitutes.
    Staying stuck on stupid and Ignorance is no longer bliss, Boteach.

    The Lord is slow to anger and great in power and will by no means clear the guilty. The Lord has His way in the whirlwind and in the storm, and the clouds are the dust of His feet.
    Nahum 1:3

  13. Anonymous says:

    I wonder if the perverted,wicked and deluded fools in Noah';s day thought that it was global warming that caused their death and destruction ?
    'It's not global warming ,it's global sinning.'
    This extremely dangerous rabbi plays God and deceives the people.
    EZEKIEL 14
    “Son of man, when a land sins against Me by persistent unfaithfulness, I will stretch out My hand against it; I will cut off its supply of bread, send famine on it, and cut off man and beast from it. Even if these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they would deliver only themselves by their righteousness,” says the Lord God.

    “If I cause wild beasts to pass through the land, and they empty it, and make it so desolate that no man may pass through because of the beasts, 16 even though these three men were in it, as I live,” says the Lord God, “they would deliver neither sons nor daughters; only they would be delivered, and the land would be desolate.

  14. This has to be among the ill-conceived columns Boteach has written. And, as Jewish Press readers certainly know, there have been many.

    Shmuelly starts his column off by making this actually rather conventional statement: “{O)ur role as humans is not to **understand** G-d’s plan in the face of horror and tragedy.” So conventional, in fact, it could have been written by any clergy member of any faith.

    But then Boteach goes on to do just that. He details tragic deaths in wake of Sandy. Shmuelly response? Not that he felt sorry for the passed’s families or friends, but that he was “sick to my stomach.” — at God. The very same God he claims he won’t understand.

    Boteach goes further: “The role of human beings in the face of seeming divine miscarriages of justice is hold God accountable and demand clemency for humanity.” And then…? Does he expect resurrection of the dead before his Rebbe returns? Shout at God and He will heed? Or is the good rabbi thinking the average Yossel – Jewish Press readers and others – have the same status (“protexia”) of Moshe Rabeinu or Avraham Avinu. Maybe “America’s rabbi” believes he is of such lofty stature? Heaven help us!

    “God is all powerful,” writes Boteach. “He does not need a defense attorney.” Nor does He need a human prosecutor. God is the All Knowing. And God is – forgive me – Great.

    At the risk of stating the obvious, human keen is precisely why He is God and Shmuelly has only a reputation of thinking he is.

  15. Anonymous says:

    You ask where was G-d when hurricane sandy struck America, I will tell you Ha-Shem is tired of waiting for us to repent and ask Him into our lives to direct and comfort us , but we are too stubborn and our ego's are so huge that we think that we can do anything we like and He must not interfere in our lives, but as soon as there is a disaster, we shout 'help', then when all is well again we continue on our sinful way, may HaShem have mercy on us and forgive us.

  16. Liad Bar-el says:

    Excellent reply bookham1. Tzvi Fishman made another reply which is one the best and most comprehensively true reply to date. Read it: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/columns/america-rabbi-shmuley-boteach/the-storm-that-united-a-divided-nation/2012/10/31/

    I’m asking what was Shmuley Boteach doing during the storm? Was he praying like Abraham with tears streaming down his cheeks praying to G-d: “L-rd of the universe. I held back all my emotions and did not even feel any pity for my son, just to do Your will. May you similarly hold back Your anger, and direct the pity that I overcame toward my children; thus, let the merit of the Akedah protect them.” (Targum Yonathan; Bere****h Rabbah; Tanchuma) Or was Shmuley Boteach writing a Korach News Letter to the G-d’s children in exile to stand against G-d’s actions? The post following this one will prove it to be the later.

  17. Liad Bar-el says:

    Shmuley: “Did any of these people deserve to die?”.
    Any Orthodox Rabbi would have said to one who had died, ברוך דיין האמת and he would never have challenged HaShem’s actions in such matters.

    Shmuley: “In the face of these natural disasters there are always those who are trying to divine the mind of God when really their role as humans is to argue with God. That’s exactly what the name Israel means, He who wrestles with God.”.

    Let’s put this put this story of giving Jacob the name Israel in context so that we can fully understand that what you say is not the full truth. Truly, Shmuley, you don’t think that you and the rest of your exiled followers are on the spiritual level of Jacob?

    Gen 31:3 “G-d said to Jacob, “Return to the land of your fathers and to your birthplace. I will be with you.” G-d gave Jacob the command and G-d has done to you and your followers, Shmuley, to return to the Land of Israel. Jacob then sent messengers to Esau with a message from “Your servant Jacob” addressing him as “my lord Esau”. (Gen 32:5,6) The messengers returned to Jacob stating that Esau is coming to him with 400 men. Jacob realized that whoever flatters an outlaw will eventually fall into his hands; thus, Jacob became very much afraid. Your flattery to Jew haters in order to gain votes will one day make you afraid also, Shmuley.

    Every nation is administered by a spiritual power, except for Israel, which G-d alone oversees. G-d took down the divine power that was over Egypt so that Moses would have success in overcoming Pharaoh in Egypt. If G-d oversees Israel, then who was it that Jacob met and fought with on the way to Israel?

    Gen 32:24 “Jacob remained alone. A man [appeared and] wrestled with him until just before daybreak.” Me’Am Lo’Ez Vol 3a, pg 134, “This angel was actually none other than Esau’s spiritual guardian, who wanted to harm Jacob.” Gen 32:27 “[The stranger] said, ‘Let me go! The dawn is breaking.’ [Jacob] said, ‘I will not let you go unless you bless me.’” Now, if this stranger were G-d Himself, He would not be afraid of the rising sun of which He made.

    Gen 32:29 “[The man] said, ‘No longer will your name be spoken of as Jacob, but as Israel. You are great before G-d and man, and you have won.’” The Hebrew word for “great” here is sar-itha and it can also mean to struggle or to contend. The word for G-d here is Elohim which also denotes angels and judges. Ma’Am Lo’Ez Vol 3a, pg 139, “You have struggled with divine beings and have overcome them; and you are also great before G-d.”.

    Shmuley: “Isn’t that what Abraham does in this week’s Torah reading where he raises his fist to the heavens…”.
    NEVER EVER had Abraham done such a thing toward G-d. In fact in the very parasha you quoted, Abraham stated “Here I have begun to speak to my L-rd. I am dust and ashes.”.

    May you, Shmuley, learn to have the humility of our forefather, Abraham so that others will learn this humility so as to fulfill their lives as complete Jews in Eretz Yisrael. Shavuah Tov!

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