Sunday, March 13, 2011

Tsunamis and Terror

I would really like to write a post about winning and losing the Chatzos Challenge.   I have the whole post planned in my head.  But I feel like I would be remiss if I ignored everything that has happened in the world since we woke up on Friday morning. 
The gravity of the situation in Japan is striking.  Even before we heard the news about the partial meltdown at the nuclear power facilities—and before we saw the videos of the tremendous devastation—we heard that this earthquake/tsunami may have taken the lives of tens of thousands. There, in a first-world-developed country, tens of thousands of people were killed?  By a natural disaster?  That sort of thing is not supposed to happen in first-world-developed country. 
And then, as if our minds were not reeling enough, motzei Shabbos, we turned on our phones and our computers, to hear about the horrific murder of five members of the Fogel Family in Itamar, Israel.  I learned the news while I was scrolling though Facebook updates on my phone.  “Three year-old stabbed in heart, baby’s throat slashed.”  That was enough of a headline to make me burst into tears.  I couldn’t read the story.  I couldn’t read that there was another child, 11, murdered.  I couldn’t read that the parents were murdered.  I couldn’t read that the oldest daughter (only 12?!?) found her family.  I couldn’t read anymore.  Just that headline was enough to keep me from sleeping last night.   
Many of us look for ways to distance ourselves from the horror of tragedy.  This is a natural defense mechanism.  When the Indonesian Tsunami of 2005 hit, for example, many of us were moved to tears, we contributed to the cause, we felt the pain, but in the back of our heads, we were saying, “That could never happen here.  All of those Indonesian islands are developing.  They don’t have warning systems.  They don’t have technology.  They are not us.”  I think the psychologists call this bargaining.  When you separated yourself from the bad, the bad is more bearable.  I guess this is how we find solace.
But in the story unfolding in Japan, and so much more so in the story of the Fogel family, hit too close to home.  Japan is a country like our country.  They have the conveniences that we have.  They have the technology to warn.  But warning is not prevention—and it could happen here, too.  That is scary.  That makes you stop short and re-evaluate. 
And if we distance ourselves as a method of emotional self-preservation, how do we distance ourselves when we hear about a family—for me, a family very similar to my own and living the life that my husband and I hope to live in our own land-- is brutally murdered, on Shabbos?  How do we cope when that could have just as easily been us?  My first reaction was to check on my own baby and three year-old.  To kiss them.  To say a prayer over them.  Past that, I don’t know.  There just aren’t words. 
This week, we are going to be rushing around getting ready for Purim.  We will get dressed up in our costumes as a reminder that Hashem works in hidden ways.  We will read Megillas Esther and be reminded that even though He works through man, at the end of the day, the King is in charge. We will be reminded that nothing is coincidence.  In fact, the letters in the Hebrew word mikreh—coincidence—can be rearranged to spell rak m’hashem—only from Hashem.  These two tragedies occurred—and so close to one another—and so close to Purim-- for a reason.  And I don’t have the slightest clue what it is. 
I do know that we have an opportunity to see beyond the politics and the headlines (or lack thereof) to the people in the midst of these horrendous events.  We may feel hopeless to help physically, but we can always say, “Hashem, yerachem,” hug and kiss our families, and do a chesed in the merit of the victims.  Maybe we can even find comfort in the fact that this, too, is from Hashem.        

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