Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Portrait Of A Vengeful God

There's a very offensive bit of theology winging its way around a certain segment of the Jewish right wing at the moment – that the reason for Hurricane Katrina is the US involvement in the Gaza Disengagement. In other words, the disaster we are suffering in Louisiana and Mississippi has to do with American encouragement of the peace process. The Hurricane and the attendant disaster is, apparently, all Divine payback.
On August 14, citizens in the United States, like people around the world, heard about the issuing of an order for the forced evacuation of Jews from parts of Israel’s biblical land.

For six days they watched as thousands of weeping people were pulled and carried from their homes, forced to leave their gardens, parks, communities, schools, towns and synagogues, everything they had spent decades building; banned from ever returning again. Those scenes were soon followed by pictures of bulldozers and other earth-moving machinery pulverizing the just-vacated homes into heaps of dust.

While this was taking place, a small tropical depression was forming near the Bahamas in the Atlantic Ocean. Slowly, as the air began to revolve, the nonthreatening weather system began moving in the direction of Florida.

Yesterday, we in Israel watched as American officials, including President George W. Bush, ordered the mandatory evacuation of New Orleans and its surrounds. That small depression had turned into a frightening fiend. Now we are seeing on our television screens up to a million people being forced to leave their homes. People are weeping on camera, mourning that they are going to lose “everything we own; everything we have worked for.”

As today unfolds we are bracing to see wind and water pounding homes, whole communities, into the ground.

Is this some sort of bizarre coincidence? Not for those who believe in the God of the Bible and the immutability of His Word.

What America is about to experience is the lifting of God’s hand of protection; the implementation of His judgment on the nation most responsible for endangering the land and people of Israel.

The Bible talks about Him shaking His fist over bodies of water, and striking them.

While the “disengagement” plan was purportedly the brainchild of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, the United States of America has for more than a decade been the chief sponsor and propeller of a diplomatic process that has dangerously weakened Israel in the face of an overwhelming, growing threat to annihilate her.
Rabbi Lazar Brody, a Hasidic rabbi whose writings at times I have found inspiring, takes a similar tone, though he at least had the decency to write this before the extent of the disaster became known.

For some reason that makes it seem minimally less arrogant to me. Although the fact that the well meaning Rabbi claims to understand the inner workings of God's way still seems utterly hubristic:
Katrina is hitting just as the bulldozers are completing the destruction of Gush Katif. The Talmud teaches that Hashem administers the world according to the "ATFAT" principle, in other words, "a turn for a turn" (for an elaboration of the ATFAT principle, see Chapter Six of The Trail to Tranquility). My heart tells me that there's a link between the forced expulsion of 8500 people from their blood, sweat, and tear-soaked homes in Israeli Gaza and between the nearly 850,000 people who are forced to flee from their homes in Louisiana. Sharon, at the prodding of the American government, has destroyed hallowed centers of prayer, Torah learning, and settlement in the Land of Israel. Hashem isn't wasting much time in showing His wrath. In fact, Katrina has chosen Ms. Rice's home state as a target; I humbly believe that the unfortunate people of Louisiana can blame Mr. Bush and Ms. Rice for their misfortune. This is a classic ATFAT situation: He who creates exiles in the Holy Land, will have a hundred-fold exiles in his own land.
Rabbi Brody seems to feel that the key to stopping this disaster is for President Bush and Condi to do tshuva, i.e. to repent, by ceasing to make further demands of territorial concessions from Israel.
Mr. Bush and Ms. Rice, I implore you to repent, to ask Hashem's forgiveness for destroying a flourishing part of Israel. Cancel all your demands for further territorial concessions in Israel. If by your initiative more Jews are rendered homeless, G-d forbid, I shudder to think of what could happen. Please take Katrina very seriously, for she is a no-nonsense messenger from The Almighty.
In a similar spirit to Rabbi Brody, I'm sure Osama and Zarqawi are sitting back and enjoying the fact that the flood is payback for the Iraq "occupation" and the takeover of Afghanistan. And really, the reasoning is just as likely and their certitude -- and that of the imams speaking now in their mosques denouncing the US -- just as offputting. What's to choose between one such theological construction and the other? The fact that one privileges the Jews and the other one the Arabs?

In the US, we also have some members of the illuminati from the leftist persuasion blaming the disaster on various members of the US right-wing. One of them even quotes Christian biblical texts in his heading.

This line of reasoning certainly begs the question, if this is the nature of God, why would anyone want to worship him? I certainly wouldn't want to. It's a worldview that reeks of superstition, conspiracy-mindedness and moral determinism on a very simplistic level. Worst of all it trivializes God.

All this reminds me of an incident that occurred when I lived in Jerusalem. There was a tragic school bus accident at that time and some tens of children were killed. The answer as to why this happened from a certain echelon of the religious community? The mezuzot were not kosher.

Bloghead and Orthomom are similarly unimpressed by Rabbi Brody's take on the affair.


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