web analytics
April 16, 2014 / 16 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post
Spa 1.2 Combining Modern Living in Traditional Jerusalem

A unique and prestigious residential project in now being built in Mekor Haim Street in Jerusalem.



Home » InDepth » Op-Eds »

When The Only One Left Is The Puppeteer: A Spiritual Perspective on the Gulf Oil Spill


Share Button

The ongoing crisis in the Gulf of Mexico has been declared the worst oil spill in American history. It occurred when an offshore drilling rig exploded on April 20, killing eleven crew members and causing an oil pipe, 5,000 feet below the ocean’s surface, to rupture. BP, the oil company responsible for the spill, is the fourth largest company, of any type, in the world. Shockingly, BP’s efforts, backed by America, have not stopped the flow.

Although God’s ways are beyond us and each individual bears responsibility for his actions, God uses life events to teach us what we need to learn. Let us not add to this tragedy by remaining unchanged by it.

Two possible lessons may be derived from this disaster. The first is that we can’t do anything without God’s help. As I watched images of the oil gushing out of the pipe and read reports of the resultant economic hardship and environmental damage, I felt a sense of helplessness. Even though we believe in God, there is still some part of us that usually thinks we can manage on our own. When our experience belies that, we feel helpless.

The truth is that with God’s help we are never helpless; without it, we are always as helpless as a crying infant. Unlike an infant who realizes his powerlessness and cries out for help, many of us deny our total dependence on God. We sometimes think, especially with all the breakthroughs in medicine and engineering, that we can go it alone. It’s humbling to discover that while we can split the nucleus of an atom, without God’s backing we can’t even fix a broken pipe. Advertisement

Everyone relies on something to feel secure. Before 9/11, we relied on our military might. Before the economic downturn, we relied on our financial institutions. Before this oil spill, we relied on our sophisticated technologies. Now there is nothing material left to rely on; all pretenses have been stripped away; all the puppets are gone. The only one left is the Puppeteer Himself.

We are now at a pivotal crossroad. Will we try to fashion new puppets in our search for security? Or will we find that security in God’s guidance and assistance?

God is our Father in Heaven, and just like a parent wants to hear from children regularly and not only sporadically, God wants to hear from us every day. He does not want to be the option of last resort. He is the only option, as nothing can help us independent of His will. As King David says in Psalms (127:1), “If God will not build the house, in vain have its builders labored on it.”

The oil emanating from the bowels of the earth, traveling many miles to distant shores, is perhaps God’s dispatch to us, saying, “You need Me and I want to be needed by you.”

The second possible lesson is the importance of boundaries and how they relate to theft. What is unusual about this environmental disaster is that the polluting agent – the oil – is natural; one natural element contaminating another. The oil was a precious resource when it was kept separate; it only became a menace once its barrier was breached inappropriately. Although the investigation is ongoing, the chief mechanic on the rig testified that shortcuts had been insisted on from the top, despite workers’ concerns.

Everything God creates has innate holiness and needs to be treated with respect and care. Things only become evil when they are misused. The Torah, God’s instruction manual for life, teaches us how to mine the holiness in everything without overstepping our bounds and causing a breach. Sin is in essence a breach – a breach of the trust God has in us, His creations, to follow His will, and a breach in the guidelines God set as to how things He created may be used.

Our Sages say it was the sin of thievery that caused God to flood the world during the time of Noah. When people breached the separation between what was theirs and what was not, God acted in kind. He unleashed His wellsprings, which were ensconced deep in the earth and unknown to humanity, and that water then joined with their oceans and rivers. The combined waters, together with the rain, flooded the world.

There are eerie similarities between the flood and the oil spill. According to one opinion in the Talmud, the flood started during the month of Iyar – the same month this oil spill began. Both the flood and the oil spill were triggered by something unleashed from deep below the surface. And, considering the rampant fraud and theft plaguing our society, the reason given by our tradition for the flood is cause for reflection.

As mentioned above, it is very possible that the use of illegitimate means to hasten the oil extraction led to the broken pipe. Using illegitimate methods to gain something is a form of theft. The image of oil washing up on our shores is also symbolic of theft – something dark and foreboding encroaching upon an area where it does not belong.

Though we strive to be honest and ethical, most of us could stand at least some improvement in those areas. We can utilize the anger and frustration we feel over the oil spill as motivation to focus on these areas.

To get started we can ask ourselves, (1) “Am I doing anything that, though I can rationalize why it’s OK, is against the law?” and (2) “What is a gap in my life in this area and what can I do to plug the hole?”

After we learn the first lesson – reliance on God and seeking His help – the second lesson – respecting boundaries – follows naturally. When our chief priority is having God’s guidance and assistance in our lives, we will never want something He has forbidden. All we will ever want is what God, out of His deep love, wants to give us.

Share Button

About the Author: Yaakov Weiland has an MSW from Fordham School of Social Service and lives in New York City. Visit his blog at yaakovweiland.blogspot.com.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

No Responses to “When The Only One Left Is The Puppeteer: A Spiritual Perspective on the Gulf Oil Spill”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Blue Valley High School, Overland Park, Kansas, the school attended by 14-year-old shooting victim Reat Griffin Underwood.
Kansas Shooting Suspect a White Supremacist, Indicted for Murder
Latest Indepth Stories
Lebovic-041814

How much is the human mind able to grasp of the Divine?

Benveniste-041814

Jews have brought the baggage of the galut (exile) mentality to the modern state of Israel.

Dann-041814

The Haggadah is an instruction manual on how to survive as strangers in strange lands.

It’s finally happened. New York Times public editor Margaret Sullivan reported on her blog that “many readers…wrote to object to an [April 2] article…on the breakdown in peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians,” claiming “[they] found the headline misleading and the article itself lacking in context.” Ms. Sullivan provided one such letter, quoted the […]

Nor did it seem relevant that according to widely circulated media reports, Rev. Sharpton was caught on an FBI surveillance video discussing possible drug sales with an FBI agent.

Jewish soldiers in the Polish forces often encountered anti-Semitic prejudice.

When the state was established, gedolim went to Ben-Gurion and asked him not to draft women and, later, yeshiva bachrim.

Perhaps worse than all the above is the acute lack of unity among Jews

At our seder we emulate the way it was celebrated in Temple times, as if the Temple still stood.

Not one world leader holds Abbas accountable for his part in the breakdown of negotiations.

The 1948 re-establishment of Jewish sovereignty was a modern day Exodus and Parting of the Sea.

Spies who caused American deaths and worked for enemy states received lighter sentences than Pollard.

Christie’s “good friend” is an Imam who supports murderers of Jews and defames Israel and Christians.

One grey night it happened, Bibi caved no more
& Poof that Foggy Bottomer, he vanished from our sight

More Articles from Yaakov Weiland
Your Sin

Can you recall any time you hurt someone, perhaps a friend, neighbor, family member, fellow congregant or business associate?

During the High Holidays we increase the number of our prayers. We acknowledge God’s kingship, beseech Him to forgive us and ask Him to grant us a new year filled with blessings. How do we make these prayers sincere and effective?

We are now in the Three Weeks, a time of national mourning for the Jewish people. Of the numerous tragedies that occurred throughout history during this period, the central one we grieve is the destruction of both Temples; they were destroyed on Tisha B’Av, the culmination of the Three Weeks.

On Shavuot we celebrate God giving us the Torah, represented by the Ten Commandments. We will explore them here through a broad lens, showing how they apply to our daily lives. We will focus on the First Commandment, the foundation, and the seven commandments phrased in the negative, which tell us what not to do, discussing both sides: the negative (avoiding what God hates) and the hidden side, the positive (doing what He loves).

In my Nov. 26 op-ed article, “The Clarifying Truths of Chanukah,” I explored how clarity, purity and joy bring us close to God and to living a meaningful life. If they are so essential, their potential must exist within our spiritual DNA. I suggest it does; we inherited that potential from our forefathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

Ever wonder why the Jewish New Year begins with three back-to-back-to back holidays and then no biblical holidays for another six months?

The ongoing crisis in the Gulf of Mexico has been declared the worst oil spill in American history. It occurred when an offshore drilling rig exploded on April 20, killing eleven crew members and causing an oil pipe, 5,000 feet below the ocean’s surface, to rupture. BP, the oil company responsible for the spill, is the fourth largest company, of any type, in the world. Shockingly, BP’s efforts, backed by America, have not stopped the flow.

    Latest Poll

    Now that Kerry's "Peace Talks" are apparently over, are you...?







    View Results

    Loading ... Loading ...

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/when-the-only-one-left-is-the-puppeteer-a-spiritual-perspective-on-the-gulf-oil-spill/2010/06/30/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: