Houston, we have a problem.
In the wake of a historic storm which devastated Southern Texas this week, wreaking havoc for millions of people, with the extent of the casualties and damage still unknown – how does the Torah teach us to respond to such a disaster?
Considering that this happened in the early days of Elul, the month of compassion, which prepares us for the New Year – what compassion do we find in such catastrophe?
Can we say, as some religious fundamentalists argue, that natural disasters are a punishment for our sins? (Interestingly, these natural disasters are called “acts of G-d” by insurance companies. Apparently, when it comes to saving money G-d is suddenly invoked and turned into a scapegoat…)
On the other hand, divine providence clearly indicates that we must learn lessons from every event, especially calamities (as Maimonides writes).
What lessons can we learn from Hurricane Harvey and its powerful winds and flooding waters?
We can find the answer in the winds and storms referred to in the Torah – in the story of creation, after Adam and Eve ate from the Tree of Knowledge and in the narrative of Jonah trying to escape from his divine destiny. These winds teach us a number of lessons about the winds blowing today.