In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, my right wing Jewish and Christian colleagues have come out with statements claiming that “Hurricane Sandy is divine justice for New York’s same-sex marriage legislation” I find these statements bizarre on several levels.
The first aspect I would like to focus upon is God’s aim. There is an old story about a rabbi and a priest playing golf. Each time the rabbi takes a shot and misses he says “oh BLEEP I missed”. The priest strenuously objects to the rabbi’s foul language. After the 3rd occurrence, the priest is so disturbed he says, “may God strike you dead if you curse again”. Sure enough the rabbi curses again and a bolt of lightening strikes the priest. A voice comes down from heaven and declares “oh BLEEP I missed”.
New Jersey was hit earlier than and at least as hard as New York. One can argue that Hurricane Sandy is “divine justice “ for Governor Chris Christie's veto of the same-sex marriage bill. Or perhaps it really is “divine justice” for New York’s same-sex marriage legislation”. If so we should be hearing a heavenly voice saying “oh BLEEP I missed”.
The second aspect I would like to focus upon is God’s temperament. There is no question that God is pictured in the Torah as an entity who expresses vengeful anger. This is clearly the perception that remains throughout TANACH (Hebrew Scripture: Torah, Prophets, Later Writings) as expressed graphically in psalms. Is this the image of God we have a relationship with today? The God with whom I have a relationship is described in Exodus 34:6-7 and throughout our liturgy as
אל רחום וחנון, ארך אפים ורב חסד ואמת. נצר חסד לאלפים, נשא עון ופשע וחטאה, ונקה.
“gracious, compassionate, patient bounding in kindness and faithfulness, assuring love for a thousand generations forgiving inequity, transgression and sin and granting pardon.”
Does this sound like the same God who beats up the Eastern seaboard as divine justice for New York’s same-sex marriage legislation?
The third aspect I would like to focus upon is the province God as it relates to the province of humanity. Those who have become self styled spokesman of "divine justice”, seem to have forgotten one of the basic teachings of our Torah.
הנסתרת לה' אלקינו
The hidden reasonings are the province of God
והנגלת לנו ולבנינו עד־עולם
that which is exposed is to us and to our children for eternity.
לעשות את־כל־דברי התורה הזאת:
to act in the words of our sacred texts.
As science and technology unlocks the mysteries of nature the province of הנגלת לנו" that which is exposed is to us and to our children” expands as we gain insight into weather systems and are even able to predict approaching storms with some accuracy. There is, and always will be, the realm of הנסתרת the hidden reasonings - the mysteries of the world that are solely within the province of God.
Who can look in the eyes of a Holocaust survivor and say, I understand why God allowed the decimation of your generation?
Who can look in the eyes of a parent who has lost a child and say, “I can explain why this has happened”?
Can anyone possibly say to a family who witnessed the death of their father and husband during the recent storm evacuation, “I know why this happened”?
My colleagues who have taken it upon themselves to declare this tragedy “divine justice for New York’s same-sex marriage legislation” trespass on the province of God. In doing so they disgrace God’s sacred name. The reasons for this storm are outside of the realm of "הנגלת לנו that which is exposed is to us and to our children". The mysteries of the world remain solely within the province of God.
Rather than condemning New Yorkers for perceived injustices, we should look at the way New Yorkers have risen to the occasion. In the spirit of Abraham our patriarch, New Yorkers practice radical hospitality in the wake of this storm. People have opened their hearts and their homes to strangers. Drive around any neighborhood and you’ll see extension cords reaching out from house to house, neighbors with power are literally connecting with neighbors without power. Impromptu neighborhood barbecues bring communities together as defrosting freezers are grilled and shared. Stories of families taking in other families are only samples of the acts of random love and kindness, which permeate the actions of humanity in the wake of this storm. God’s love and compassion is reflected in the actions of God’s children as we recover from this tragic storm. While we cannot presume to understand the nature of God’s divine actions, it is up to us to act according to the will of our sacred Teachings and embrace each other in love and kindness.
There is only one aspect of the divine justice that I can state emphatically as it relates to this storm. Those who embrace each other with open arms and helping hands are true agents of “divine justice”. May God bless you with health, well-being and warmth as we continue to recover from this storm.