In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, we bring you an exclusive interview with an earlier hurricane called Frances, offering us fascinating insights about the soul of a hurricane and its lessons for our lives.
SJ: How are you today, Frances?
FRANCES: Frances?! Where did you get that
ridiculous name from?
SJ: That seems to be the name that scientists
FRANCES: Scientists! Give me a break. What
do scientists know about me that they feel they can coin
me with some human name? Did they parent me?
SJ: Actually, scientists are perplexed about
you and your cohorts. Years ago they tried taming you, but
they have long given up hope. Now they focus on trying to
track the way you form and move.
FRANCES: Exactly. They know nothing about
me, yet they call me by their man-made name!
SJ: So what should I call you?
FRANCES: You may be more comfortable calling
me an “act of nature,” but I am actually an
“act of G-d” – even your insurance companies
have acknowledged that…
SJ: Isnít it somewhat arrogant to call yourself
an act of G-d?
FRANCES: Itís even more arrogant for humans
to label me by their human name.
SJ: Ok, please donít be so touchy. Letís get
FRANCES: This isnít semantics. If people would
accept that they I am not their creation, but a tool of
G-dís, they would be able to begin to understand me, and
perhaps even master me.
SJ: Letís get back to the interview. How are
FRANCES: Much calmer thank you. I had a rough
week down south, and I feel relieved that my rage is finally
SJ: Rage? Are you angry at something?
FRANCES: Not exactly angry. However, as you
may have witnessed, I unintentionally did cause much devastation.
And I have driven fear into so many people’s hearts,
which really disturbs me.
SJ: Why does it disturb you?
FRANCES: Because the last thing I want to
do is terrify people. That is why I granted you this interview
to perhaps help set the record straight.
SJ: Ok, thatís great. Then I hope you wonít
mind if I ask you some blunt questions about you and your
FRANCES: By all means.
SJ: Our abovementioned scientists have learned
much about your patterns, your nature and the way you are
constructed. They have learned to track your path and to
issue evacuation warnings to minimize your impact on populated
cities. People have also learned how to shutter their homes
and to use other measures to protect themselves from your
floods and winds. However, with all our scientific progress,
we have no idea what you are really about, what role you
play. What your “soul,” if I can call it that,
FRANCES: As you know everything in existence
has both a body and a soul. By studying the body of an experience
you can come to understand it’s soul. So, let me give
you a lesson or two in the physical and spiritual nature
of a hurricane.
Do you know what causes us to be formed?
SJ: I believe that the birth of a hurricane
requires at least three conditions. First, the ocean waters
must be warm enough (warmer than 26.5 degrees Celsius, 81įF)
at the surface to put enough heat and moisture into the
overlying atmosphere to provide the potential fuel for the
thermodynamic engine that a hurricane becomes. Second, atmospheric
moisture from seawater evaporation must combine with that
heat and energy to form the powerful engine needed to propel
a hurricane. Third, a wind pattern must be near the ocean
surface to spirals air inward. Bands of thunderstorms form,
allowing the air to warm further and rise higher into the
atmosphere. If the winds at these higher levels are relatively
light, this structure can remain intact and grow stronger,
which results in the beginnings of a hurricane.
FRANCES: Very good. But allow me to add the
following. Why do thunderstorms occur in the first place?
Why, for instance, does a period of high humidity and low-pressure
result in a thunderstorm?
SJ: I always understood it as a form of release.
As heat builds up and has nowhere to escape, it finally
bursts into a thunderstorm, to release the bottled up energy.
FRANCES: Exactly. Like the spout on a boiling
kettle, which allows the pressure to be released, a thunderstorm
releases the pressure build up within the system. If the
storm would not come, the pressure could build up and explode
like a kettle without a spout, causing much more damage.
Hurricanes begin essentially as a complex
of thunderstorms. When a group of these storms comes together
under the right atmospheric conditions for a long enough
time, they may organize into a tropical depression. Once
a tropical depression has intensified to the point where
its maximum sustained winds are between 35-64 knots (39-73
mph), it becomes a tropical storm. During this time, the
storm itself becomes more organized and begins to become
more circular in shape – resembling a hurricane. As
surface pressures continue to drop, a tropical storm becomes
a hurricane when sustained wind speeds reach 64 knots (74
mph). A pronounced rotation develops around the central
SJ: But why in the first place is there such
a disparity between hot and cold, between low and high-pressure
systems that cause disturbances in atmospheric conditions,
leading to storms and ultimately hurricanes?
FRANCES: Ahh, that leads us back to G-d and
the way He created the universe, and to the “soul”
of the storm. You have heard of the great Tzimzum, have
SJ: Yes, I have. The Lurianic doctrine of
tzimtzum explains how “space” was created for
the existence of an entity that is consciously independent
of G-d’s all encompassing reality. Like a teaches
that conceals his brilliance to allow space for the student,
the tzimzum allows us to exist and to slowly discover the
Divine reality, step by step, in ways that we can contain
without being annihilated.
FRANCES: But, as you know, this tzimzum in
turn causes a serious imbalance. Once the true reality is
concealed, a duality has taken hold. Two perspectives now
clash with each other: The pre-tzimzum perspective from
“above” that sees existence as just another
extension of G-dliness, and the post-tzimzum existential
perspective from “below” that sees its own existence
as primary and can barely sense a reality outside of its
own. The two consciousnesses – The Divine one and
the human one – are no longer seamless.
SJ: A dichotomy exists between “light”
FRANCES: The tension between these two realities
ultimately leads to what is called the “shattering
of the containers.” As painful as the shattering may
be, it is necessary. It serves as a form of adjustment –
a so called “market correction” – to realign
and readjust material reality with Divine reality. When
seen in its full light, the destruction of tohu,
the shattering of the containers, releases the tension and
is actually necessary to begin the process of repair and
building something greater. Like the razing of a building
in order to build a greater one in its place. Like the deteriorating
seed that allows the fruit to bloom.
Now back to our earlier statement that you
recall that we discussed earlier that everything in existence
has both a body and a soul. The body of a hurricane is a
result of heat, low pressure and the imbalance in atmospheric
conditions: The stormy winds of the hurricane are in essence
coming to realign the imbalance. In spiritual terms, the
soul of the hurricane is similar to the “shattering
of the containers” which comes to relieve the tension
and realign the imbalance between spirit and matter.
FRANCES: If you like I will give you an example
from your own human body. As you know, the human being is
universe in microcosm, and the universe is like a large
organism. Everything that exists on Earth also exists in
human physiology. Coughing is the body's way of removing
foreign material or mucous from the lungs and throat. High
fever often is necessary to burn away unhealthy bacteria
and fight off infections. You can see me as an atmospheric
cough – drawing energy from the warm water –
attempting to dislodge foreign forces that impede the flow
Or using another example from your world:
I am like a large vacuum cleaner, sweeping up the dirt and
grime of the universe, and realigning its balance.
SJ: This all sounds nice and good, but please
forgive me: As a vacuum cleaner why must you wreak such
havoc in your path, destroying lives, damaging property
in the billions of dollars?
FRANCES: For the record, did you notice the
great rains that came with the winds? Those are my tears,
weeping for the destruction I leave in my wake.
SJ: I am moved. But instead of weeping, why
don’t you just do your thing without any destruction,
so neither you or we will need to weep in
the first place?
FRANCES: First of all, I am not the one in
control calling the shots. I am a force driven by G-d, so
you need to direct your question to Him. What I can tell
you is that like the “shattering of the containers,”
my destructive force is not an end in itself, but a necessary
step to maintain balance in an unbalanced world.
SJ: Are you suggesting that you are a punishment
for human sins?
FRANCES: G-d forbid. Just as the human cough
is not a punishment and the “shattering of the containers”
are not a punishment, neither am I. On the contrary, we
are all forces that help realign and repair the dichotomy.
If I had my way, I would never hit land where
I can harm people and property. I would prefer doing my
“rebalancing” out at sea, where you would not
even know that I existed. Just as many of the earthquakes
take place in the ocean depths, also, incidentally as a
force that relieves the stress accumulated along geologic
faults, separating between the plates of the earth’s
crust grating against each other.
But what am I to do when my path often takes
me through land that humans have recently populated? Frankly,
if there were no people and no buildings in the way, there
would be no destruction.
SJ: But there are people and buildings.
FRANCES: Well the fact is that we came first.
We hurricanes were here long before you populated this part
of the world. Perhaps you were able to annihilate the Indians,
but you really can’t get rid of us, and you wouldn’t
want to if you appreciated our role in maintaining a balanced
Donít get me wrong. I absolutely embrace your
living in this part of the world. And as I said, if it were
my call, I would do everything possible to stay away from
hurting any of you.
But, the fact remains that we live in an unbalanced
world, and you need us hurricanes as much as we need you.
You could not imagine what the world would be like if we
did not relieve the inherent tensions (as a cough eliminates
the blockages) and did not do our share of “vacuuming.”
And finally, letís not forget that part of
the pressure includes the deep tension between nature and
humans Ė a dichotomy that has been around for a long time.
SJ: How long?
FRANCES: My great grandfather told me that
his great grandfather told him that his ancestors told him
that these winds were blowing back then.
SJ: Are you essentially saying that you are
merely a breath of fresh air?
FRANCES: And much more. I am a wind below
that has the power to call and rouse the wind above. As
the Zohar says: “wind rouses wind,” “spirit
(ruach) rouses spirit.”
Did you ever notice why you sometimes cough
strongly, gasping for air? You do so because you are trying
to dislodge a blockage. Yes, it would be better to just
breath silently with no disturbances. But when there is
an impediment, you have the power to cough it up. Thus,
the nuisance you call a cough is actually a lifesaver. So
too, we hurricanes are a call that can reach deeper and
blow away impediments.
We also cannot exist without heat and without
water – the two essentials of life. Think about that.
SJ: Much to think about.
FRANCES: Now you can understand why I am offended
that you insist on imposing upon me a man-made name? I am
here to remind you of the winds above and the tensions between
heaven and earth, and you go and try to turn me into another
What is it with you humans? Why must you turn
everything into a “product”?
SJ: What would like us to call you?
FRANCES: PerhapsÖ a breath of fresh airÖ
SJ: So where do you go from here, Frances?
FRANCES: I will move north, deliver some life
nourishing water and fill up your reservoirs. You never
know when you’ll need extra water. Then I will probably
just recede into the background. You won’t feel me
but I’ll be there.
SJ: Since you know a thing or two about devastation,
would you care to comment on the September 11 attacks and
the current climate of terrorism consuming the world?
FRANCES: Please donít compare me to them.
I am a natural force, without free will, meant to rebalance
things. As I mentioned, if it were up to me, I would function
only at sea and in a place where I cannot disrupt your lives.
Terrorists, on the other hand, have made a choice to aggressively
attack human beings, all created in the Divine Image, for
which they are fully accountable.
SJ: But couldnít the same argument be made
that the terrorists are a form of ďmarket correctionĒ to
repair the imbalance in life, and to shake us out of our
complacency and wake us up to our calling?
FRANCES: That may be true. But the terrorists
still made their criminal choice, and no one appointed them
to perpetrate their atrocities. So though you all need to
learn your lessons from these attacks, in no way does this
absolve them of responsibility for their vicious crimes.
SJ: Iím amazed with your knowledge. Are you
alive? Sometimes a storm of your nature almost seems to
have a life of its own as it threads its own path†
FRANCES: I am alive.
SJ: Will we ever meet again?
Next time you enjoy the breeze, feel the wind
flutter or refresh your lungs, think of me. That wind may
just be me whispering in your ear.
Next time you donít know which way the wind
blows, remember me.