Vayeira: Winds Of Change

Winds of Change

Is Hurricane Sandy the Advent of a New Era?

In the wake of the devastation wrought by Hurricane Sandy, we bring you these words that Rabbi Jacobson penned during the brunt of the storm, as its furious winds were beginning to thrash New York and the surrounding areas.

While prudence and caution are in order for protection from any potential damage at the hands of Hurricane Sandy, let us not forget that everything carries deeper messages.

Winds in general and especially strong winds are powerful reminders of forces beyond our control. And like any formidable force, they can either wreak havoc or brings us great opportunities.

Especially considering a hard-to-ignore coincidence of the hurricane striking the most heavily populated part of the country, including Washington DC, just a week before the Presidential election – winds from above disturbing the final whirlwind campaign efforts of both candidates.

All the more compounded by the fact that the magnitude of this storm is being considered a once-in-a-lifetime event, considering that it is a rare combination of several factors: 1) the most extensive storm system in years, (2) making a beeline for the most densely populated part of the eastern seaboard, (3) due to make landfall at exactly high tide, (4) on a full moon when tides are at their maximum (5) and when a cold weather system is poised to converge with it.

The gale winds upon our waters — born last week in the warm southern seas right around Aruba, now whimpering away into oblivion somewhere in the northern hemisphere — which unleashed their fury over the Eastern Seaboard, bring to mind the question:

What is the first documented episode of a powerful wind, and its impact on water?

The second verse in the Bible: “And the divine wind hovered over the face of the water.”

The Midrash says that “the divine wind (“ruach” in Hebrew, which also translates as spirit) refers to “the spirit of Moshiach.”

As the winds howled over the waters, and the seas surged, perhaps they were also bringing us (beyond the devastation and the compassion to those suffering losses) refreshing winds of change…

*  * *

The second time the word wind is used in the Bible is equally fascinating:  After Adam and Eve had transgressed and eaten from the Tree of Knowledge, and they realized what they had done, the verse tells us: “They heard God’s voice moving about in the garden with the wind of the day. The man and his wife hid themselves from God among the trees of the garden.  God called to the man, and He said, ‘Where are you?’”

In the “wind of the day” the Divine voice called out to Adam: “Where are you?” Where is your soul – your windy spirit (ruach)?

This is eerily reminiscent of the story of Jonah, where we read:

The Lord cast a mighty wind into the sea, and there was a mighty tempest on the sea, and the ship threatened to be broken up. And the sailors were frightened, and each one cried out to his god… and Jonah went down to the ship’s hold, lay down, and fell fast asleep.

And the captain approached him and said to him, ‘Why do you sleep? Get up, call out to your God, perhaps God will think about us, and we will not perish’.

The storm subsided only after Jonah declared that “I am a Hebrew, and I fear the G-d of heaven, Who made the sea and the dry land” and acknowledged that the tempest had come because he was fleeing his divine calling.

Jonah’s immortal words ring true today as they did then – and as they did for Adam and Eve who were trying to hide from their divine calling as well: “For I know that, because of me, this mighty tempest is upon you.”

Just to be sure, we don’t blame natural disasters on anyone; yet we are sensitive to events around us – especially those disrupting millions of lives – and make sure to derive their personal lessons in our own lives.

I just learned one such lesson – and a powerful one at that – from a colleague of mine in New York, who teaches a weekly Monday night Torah class. This Monday night was, of course, during the height of the storm. So everyone assumed that the class would be cancelled. But just to make sure a few of its regular attendees texted my colleague to confirm that the class is in fact postponed.

My colleague texted them back: “If Pharaoh [of Egypt], Nebuchadnezzar [of Babylon], Titus [of Rome], Stalin [of the Soviet Union], and Hitler didn’t stop us from enduring as Jews, surely Sandy won’t stop us! The class is on!”

As you can imagine, after reading his message, everyone attended the class. (For the record, they all lived nearby and did not place themselves at risk to join the class). With the winds roaring outdoors, they learned Torah like they never learned before…

With one short text my friend taught me an immortal lesson – which I believe is a priceless lesson for us all: When it comes to our eternal values nothing can stop us.

And the credit goes to Hurricane Sandy. Were it not for her raging winds, my friend and those who attended his class would not have discovered and appreciated the depth of their inner winds (spirits) and commitment.

What lessons will we learn from Sandy?

As Hurricane Sandy pummels its way across the Atlantic towards land – on no less than a full moon – what messages do its furious winds bring us?

Are they howling out to us with the eternal question asked to Adam and to every human being: “Where are you?”

Or are they conveying Jonah’s enduring words: “For I know that, because of me, this mighty tempest is upon you.”

Are they waking us up, crying out to us, as the captain did to Jonah: Why do you sleep?

Or perhaps they may just be humbly reminding us – smack at the end of a billion dollar Presidential campaign – who is really in charge?

Are they a harbinger of the wind and spirit of a global revolution in spiritual consciousness (aka Moshiach)?

And will we absorb their lessons and create a spiritual storm of our own, which will bring fresh winds of spirit and growth in our own lives?

Will we then allow all our winds to join together and sweep across the universe with a new wind of divine awareness, which will finally usher in the “wind (spirit) of Moshiach” upon the water and land of our world – a world filled with divine wisdom as the waters cover the earth?

Related article: The Soul of a Hurricane: Exclusive Interview


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11 years ago

Kol Hakavod! I love your interpretations of the possible reasons for the Hurricane and the lessons that we are to learn. Its frustrating to always hear the usual blaming on loshon hora or tznius. Certainly, we all need to work on those middos, but this was of such a grand scale..i was searching for a grander scale explanation! Thank you for yr profound ideas! I personally like the wind of Moshiach theory.. amen, bmhara!! shabbat shalom

Mendel Weinberger
11 years ago

Thank you Rabbi Jacobson for a beautiful essay. It seems that everyone understands a devastating storm like this as an act of G-d. But instead of focusing on the devastation it caused, we can see it as a wake up call from the Almighty. For truly everything in our natural world is an act of G-d, from the rising and setting of the sun each day, to the changing seasons, to the cycle of life where plants grow from earth, animals eat those plants and when they die they return their bodies to the earth. The amazing biological functioning of the human body is another act of G-d. The problem is that we get used to all of these phenomenon and take them for granted. Even hurricanes are common in Florida and the gulf coast. But for the northeast of the USA, hurricanes are not common. So I think as Rabbi Jacobson wrote, that this storm is a call to recognize that yes, there is a Creator of the universe and He is not far away in heaven. He is right here in the 75 mph winds and in the surge of the sea onto dry land. This is a call to recognize G-ds sovereignty in the world and to show gratitude for His blessings. And to realize that our dependence on technology, especially electricity is fragile and can be broken. I hope both presidential candidates get that message and speak about it to all Americans.

Beverley Price
11 years ago

Thank you for this perpsective. I experienced that the Planet became one country during Sandy and now- from here in Johannesburg South Africa, I was humbled and felt with you in the loss of cause and effect human control. I felt that the international solidarity with you, even from far away,and realising how small we are in the face of the weather, was paradoxically a comfort – in the submission together, this rehearsal, we are not alone.

11 years ago

To employ another symbol…this analysis is like the eye of the storm–a place of calm and reflection in the tumult. Thank you.

11 years ago

I believe that all storms have a reason for happening. This storm in New York I know has a very deep meaning that most probably dont now. As with the storm in Louisiana sin always has its effect on mankind. I know that the law of cause and affect never fails. Arent we glad that nature and the laws of nature are holy and true.

ruth housman
11 years ago

Albert Einsteins insights into matter, his theory of Relativity, changed the way we perceive of matter, energy, physics itself. It was a major breakthrough. We are poised at the edge of another major breakthrough in human consciousness, and its the marriage of consciousness with conscience, in putting the kind back into, mankind. Its deeply a Language Based story which has everything to do with the sacred Hebrew letters, that acnient Kabbalist wheel of letters, and a story that is going to sweep the world. Its All G_d. You mention some major coincidences regarding this storm and there are many more, recorded elsewhere. Coincidence is regarded as evidence of Divine Providence by some, and by others as just another astounding story, a miracle, which is soon forgotten.

I see a story that is so amazing, so astounding, only a Master Storyteller, G_d, could have pulled this off, and this story involves all aspects of our lives, all names and naming, and all aspects of Creativity. ALL Acts of G_d.

Einstein believed such a story was running. It is. Imagine you were a character in War and Peace. The storyteller knows the ending but you dont. Because the author did not yet get to the end. Thats THIS story, and I am saying, its the most amazing story EVER told and does involve us all, and the decosntruction of letters across Babel. Its a key, and the keys are in the letters and in the words. So if I was tossed the key, and I think I was, I am writing using this knowledge all over the WEB to broadcast a story that is entirely about LOVE, even when, it doesnt look that way. The keys are in the word.

Iris Zaft
11 years ago

Hashems power is more than any individual. We have faith in Hashem

Barry Bloom
11 years ago

As an Act of God, Sandy has caused devastation and harm to untold inocents. How then can we turn such a act of terror into a blessing from God. We should face into the fact that terrible things happen and God has acted in a terrible way. Any other interpretation is an excuse and does not directly address the question of why bad things happen to good people.

The Meaningful Life Center