So it was with shock I read Lazer's Katrina message.
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.
It was a shock because as the people of Gush Katif were being forced out of their homes, I was sitting in Mississippi with tears in my eyes. I wrote and tried to understand the stupidity of the Israeli and US governments . The tears for men and women of Gush Katif were rolling when I saw the video of one of the last services held at a synagogue in Gush Katif. Even now, I commiserate with the citizens who once lived in the beautiful homes of Gush Katif and who have yet to rebuild their homes elsewhere in Israel.
For there are still so many here along the Mississippi Gulf Coast who have yet to rebuild their homes. They were not forced out by the US government but by a force of nature. While the winds, the rains, and the surge were swirling around, mixed in the terror was awe for Hashem.
We praise You, Hashem, Sovereign of the universe, Source of creation and its wonders.
We praise You, Hashen, Sovereign of the universe, whose power and might pervade the world.
And after the storm had passed, more prayers were given.
Just and Holy G-d,
receive our fear, our shame, our grief, our anger.
Help us to overcome them,
to use these energies in the service of healing.
Like the citizens of Gush Katif, we needed to heal. And even after 2 1/2 years, the healing is not completed. We still feel the shame of having our homes and livelihoods knocked out from under us. We still feel the anger and the grief of our losses. We still have our fears and they come the guise of dreams and worries that we will be struck once again. The start of every hurricane season leaves me with the taste of bile.
I really don't understand Lazer's "a turn for a turn". For if Hashem had really sent Hurricane Katrina because of Gush Katif, He was certainly way off target. Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama are full of people who support Israel. Why should Hashem punish us? Is it because Secretary of State Rice is from Alabama? If so, why did Alabama have so little damage when compared to Mississippi and Louisiana? After all Alabama had few homes destroyed. Mississippi had around 100,000homes that were destroyed by Hurricane Katrina or that had to be demolished later. New Orleans and the surrounding area had around the same number that were flooded.
The lesson I learned from Hashem was to be humble about the forces of nature. And the greatest lesson I learned, that with all the faults of the government of the United States, its people are its greatest asset. For after the winds died down, after the waters receded, we were struck by another deluge. The number of volunteers who poured in and helped us dig out of the ruble inspired awe. The number of volunteers who mourned with us as we buried our dead inspired awe. the number of volunteers who helped to feed us and to clothe us inspired awe. And the number of volunteers, even after 2 1/2 years, who still work with us side-by-side, inspire awe and gratitude.
The prayers of fear have been replaced with ones of joy and thanksgiving.
We praise You, Eternal G-d, Sovereign of the universe: You call us to holiness. We give thanks for all whose labor benefits the world.
Sovereign G-d of the universe, for the wonder I have experienced in this place, I give thanks.
We praise You, Eternal G-d, Sovereign of the universe, for the life-giving waters of the sea.
We praise You, Eternal G-d, Sovereign of the universe: You are the Source of all good.
The healing continues. The fears and uncertainties of the future have receded along with the massive storm surge and the mighty winds. Many of the refugees have returned home. And while still much needs to be done, with the continued guidance of Hashem, we are rebuilding. Perhaps Hashem's target did not miss the mark: He guided so many to help. When so many become their brother's keepers, much good is done and Hashem's presence can be felt.