We witness the massive earthquake and tsunami in Japan with great concern and emotion. It occurs to me that the only way to describe the scenes of devastation before us, and the only way to possibly imagine the fears and discomfort of all those who are impacted, is to depict this as a natural event of “Biblical proportions.”
Biblical stories of destruction don’t have videotape testimony showing their ferocity. We have that here. We can see for ourselves. The people of Japan face a tragedy of Biblical proportions. This horrifying situation reminds us of life’s fragility. It calls out for our compassionate aid and assistance.
In a classroom or sanctuary setting, I might explain that this kind of experience is what produced the stories of the Bible. Think about the narrative of Noah’s flood. Generations after a flood event in the ancient world, a memory lingers. People begin sharing what they believe about life and how the world works. They attach those ideas to their memory. As the telling evolves, the Biblical text is born. We inherit that narrative to ponder, study, and root ourselves in as we consider our own beliefs and values. And so it goes in every generation.
Right now the people in Japan need our charity, our support, and our prayers. I suspect that’s all they’ll need from us for quite a while as they clean up and grieve, rebuild and endure. They have our concern and attention.
We’ll monitor the losses and the aftermath. We’ll worry about what can still be worse. But someday, when this terrible event is a distant bad memory, the victims and survivors will need something more. They’ll need us to know what they and their children discovered from this event of Biblical proportions so that its memory serves good purpose.
This is our Jewish vision for life. We respond to nature’s wrath or beauty, to humanity’s goodness or evil, from a tradition of ethics and hope. Our vision grows out of what our ancestors encountered and we experience everyday. In our response and reflection we find our purpose.
But that’s not for today. Today we must help. If you would like to contribute relief funds to the people of Japan through Chizuk Amuno Congregation, please send a check to my Discretionary Fund, marked for this purpose. Thank you.