A National Collapse--Who's to Blame?
One thing after another, tragedy after tragedy: the ravages of Covid, Hamas rockets in Israel, a fatal stampede in Israel, a bleacher collapse in Israel, a crashing cable car with Israeli casualties, escalating anti-Semitism and now a building implodes in Florida with many Jewish casualties and fatalities inside. I see a string of events that are shaped like a noose, and my fellow Jews, our neck is the guest of dishonor. (Watch this on YouTube or listen on SoundCloud)
We are all heartsick over the Surfside collapse. Glued to the television, I keep hearing the phrase, “Search and rescue.” With all my heart, I am praying for more miracles than we as a nation deserve. But, before the noose constricts even further, I implore all my fellow Jews to initiate a personal search and rescue right now. Look for the dying Jew inside of you and rescue him before it is too late. Whatever conspiracy theory we are harboring about this current catastrophe, there is one certainty with no shadows around its veracity: the Torah. When we violate it, G-d tells us He will pound us. How much more dust and ashes do we need to witness before we believe Him?
The tripartite scaffold that holds up the entire world, never mind bleachers and buildings, is Torah, prayer, and loving-kindness (with its parameters defined by the Torah). Let’s be raw and real here and let me bridge the stretch you think I’m making. If people would be honest and keep the commandments, then they wouldn’t take bribes, building inspectors wouldn’t close their eyes when codes are violated, and developers wouldn’t take risks for profit that could kill people. And that is just the practical aspect of keeping G-d’s laws. Then there is Divine intervention with which one well-placed nail could keep a house standing—look at Israel. A country surrounded by enemies, the UN, etc., with zero chance of survival by any logical means, yet she thrives and survives. "I'd believe in G-d," you say, "if I saw a miracle." Well look at Israel—there’s your miracle.
We must begin “search and rescue” now and stop waiting for tragedies to ask, “What does God want from us?” He has already told us. He has given us His Book filled with directives. It’s there in black and white. Yet, we are more inclined to believe the print in the National Enquirer than G-d’s own word for He and all His rules are such an inconvenience; there must be a quicker fix to happiness and good fortune than that burdensome Book. Yet all those quick fixes, those golden calves, are destroying us.
As we watch this horror unfold and dread the passing of hours with not enough people being found alive, we call for community prayer. Why? Because we believe that we can help each other in that intangible realm of existence where the Almighty hears us and cares what we say and do. Let’s hold that truth close everyday as we acknowledge that what we do matters to Him and that we are all responsible for one another: Kol Yisrael Arevim Zeh La Zeh. If our words and prayers have the power to save lives, how much more so our deeds.
In this week’s Torah reading we see how King Balak sought out Bilaam to curse the Jewish people. But Bilaam was unable to curse them. Why? Because the Jewish nation was behaving properly. “How goodly are your tents, O Jacob, your dwelling places, O Israel.” The Israelites left no void or crevice for curses to sneak in like an open wound accommodating infection. They were impervious to any harm because they didn’t open the door to Satan with such insipid questions as, “What does G-d want from us?” As such, those who cursed them would be cursed, and the haters would drown in the deep end of their own hate. I will never forget the complaint of a disappointed Hamas member who said, “Their G-d changes the paths of our rockets in mid-air.”
Kabbalists teach that each act we do creates an angel--either one that serves as our advocate or as our prosecutor, depending on our deed or misdeed. And so, the question is: What kind of army of angels are you building for yourself and our nation, good ones or bad ones? When threat comes your way, will your own army deservingly stab you in the back or will it stand as a loyal protector for you, your family and our nation, and escort us safely from strength to strength? The irony doesn’t escape me that rockets bomb Tel Aviv and a building filled with Jews collapses in Florida. My friends, Torah is the Iron Dome. And as sugary-sweet as we think we all are, until we do what G-d wants, we are not safe anywhere.