Rucheli's Writings

Readings, Ramblings, and Religious Rantings

The Jewish Response to the Haitian Crisis January 25, 2010

Filed under: The Orlando Judaism Examiner — rucheli @ 12:11 pm
Tags: , ,


When a tragedy of such magnitude as the earthquake in Haiti occurs, one of the first questions is: Why?! Why has G-d let this happened? Why could he possibly let 200,000 innocent people die?!

As many people as these questions, just as many try to answer them. We’ve seen the phenomenon time and time again: with the tsunami in Southeast Asia and again with Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. People use tragedy as a soapbox, a personal invitation to air their political, scientific, and religious complaints. All over television, radio, newspapers, and the internet, critics blame everyone from the United Nations to the college research students for “allowing this disaster to happen.”

But what is the religious view of something like this? If you rely on the media, you’ll get a sick and twisted response to that question. Because the media aims to sell their stories to the masses, they find a religious leader to come speak on the air that will cause uproar, either of support or condemnation or usually some combination of the two. The result is that there is usually some reverend, priest, or minister (the rabbinate is fortunately uninvolved most of the time) spewing hatred and “I told you so”s across national TV. “They died because of their sins” is sadly not an uncommon phrase to hear. So if this is the religious response, I for one am very glad that Judaism is often considered a way of life more than a religion.

That being said, the next logical question is of course, what is the Jewish response to a crisis like the one in Haiti? The answer to this question, like so many others, is found in the Torah. A few days before the earthquake, we read in that week’s Torah portion (Parshah Shemot, the first portion of Exodus) that the physical afflictions of the Jews in Egypt increase greatly prior to the story of Passover. Moses demands of G-d (yes, he can do that), “Why have you done bad to your people?!” And G-d, the all powerful and all knowing, dodges the question. Instead of answering, he simply tells Moses in the Torah portion read following the earthquake of Haiti, that the patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob) never questioned G-d the way Moses had. What does this teach us? Rabbi Shais Taub of the Chabad of East Milwaukee tells us of a lesson that our scholars impart. G-d is presenting to Moses another perspective, the perspective of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, a perspective from which it is not even conceivable to ask such a question as “Why?!”, never mind try to answer it! G-d has a plan. To ask why He does one thing or another is like saying He doesn’t know what He’s doing. To go one step further and actually try to explain why tragedies such as this happen means that you truly don’t understand at all. It’s insulting to G-d, and even more so to the people who died as a part of the plan that we will never be able to comprehend.

In times such as these, the best thing to do right now is to stop talking about why disasters happen and just go DO something to make it better. That is the Jewish response to the Haitian Earthquake of 2010, and every other disaster and tragedy in G-d’s plan… so respond the right way and do your part. The word for life in Hebrew is Chai, and the word Chai has the numerical value of 18, so click HERE and donate $18 to save precious life in Haiti now.

For more info: Vist the Chai4Humanity website at



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