Earthquake and Tsunami
Rabbi Dr. Avraham Twerski • TorahWeb.org
The recent tragedy in Haiti has elicited a number of comments. People question why G-d permits such catastrophes to happen. Others ask, why go to places of worship to pray for the victims to the G-d who smote them? Some people see such tragedies as expressions of G-d’s wrath, but, are the victims of earthquake, tsunami and tornadoes to be considered the most sinful people in the world?
My understanding of these happenings is based on the statement of the Zohar, that the Torah was the “blueprint” according to which G-d created the world. In other words, Torah is Natural Law, according to which the world operates. The Law of Gravity is Natural Law and is inviolable as are other physical laws, and so is the Natural Law of Torah. If the physical law that keeps the moon in its orbit were somehow suspended, the moon would crash into the earth, but this would not be a punitive act by G-d. If someone puts one’s hand into a fire, one gets burned, but that is not a punitive act of G-d. Rather, it is the result of Natural Law that fire burns.
According to the Torah, there are seven Noahide Laws that are binding on all human beings, and these constitute the Natural Law according to which the world operates; these are:
Prohibition of idolatry
Prohibition of murder
Prohibition of theft
Prohibition of sexual promiscuity
Prohibition of blasphemy
Prohibition of flesh taken from a live animal
Requirement to have just laws.
All human beings, religionists and non-religionists are required to abide by these laws, which underlie the Natural Law according to which the world operates. Violation of these laws is tampering with Natural Law, whose consequences can be catastrophic.
The world is a closed system. When a butterfly flaps its wings in Norway, it affects the ecology in Australia. When the Natural Law is intact, the earth’s crust and the atmosphere are stable. When air pollution tampers with the ozone layer, or sulfur dioxide pollution causes acid rain, the effects may be felt hundreds of miles away from the perpetrators. The people suffering these effects are not being “punished” by G-d, but are the victims of the reckless behavior of other people.
Is this an injustice? Yes, just as it is an injustice for a pedestrian to be killed by a reckless driver. Such happenings occur because G-d does not interfere with the free choice and behavior of human beings. Just as we do not fault G-d when an innocent person is killed by a reckless driver, we should not fault G-d when innocent people, victims of hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes and tsunami, suffer from the reckless behavior of those who violate the Natural Law.
No one is singled out to suffer the consequences of tampering with Natural Law. Violation of the seven Noahide Laws by people on one continent may result in a disruption of the Natural Law according to which the world operates, and the consequences of such disruption may occur on a distant continent. The disruption of the Natural Law which affected Indonesia and Haiti may have been caused by violations of the Noahide Laws by people the world over. No individual or group of people can be singled out as responsible and as being punished.
The seven Noahide Laws are the basis of decency and morality. Every human being should behave according to them.