I don’t think we should call her Mother Nature anymore. Mythology personifies nature as a life giving and nurturing force, a mother to the earth. I suppose that’s true on a day when the sun shines bright and the flowers bloom. It’s not true today. Certainly not in New Jersey, New York City, and other areas impacted and devastated by Hurricane Sandy. No mother we respect would do this to her children.
My mother happened to be visiting this week from Los Angeles. As we monitored the warnings and preparations unsure of where Hurricane Sandy would land, we went about our activities and enjoyed our family time together. When the storm hit, we lost power for a day or so, and made minor changes to our plans. When the storm passed, we were fine.
Thankfully, our community wasn’t in the Hurricane’s direct path. Unfortunately, others were. In my mother’s reaction to their tremendous loss and pain, I heard the genuine compassion and worry mothers feel. All of us cry out for Sandy’s victims, for their lives, their wellbeing, their property and for the flooded coastline and cities where they live that we like to visit.
Gathering in synagogue the Shabbat after Hurricane Sandy we read the harrowing and famous narrative of Abraham binding his son Isaac on an altar before God. In the Torah story, Isaac’s mother is absent. In the legends surrounding the story, in the Midrash, Sarah is very present.
“And Sarah took her son Isaac, and he abode with her all that night, and she kissed him and embraced him. She told Abraham not to neglect him.
‘If he be hungry, give him bread, and if he be thirsty, give him water to drink; do not let him go on foot, neither let him sit in the sun, neither let him go by himself on the road, neither turn him from whatever he may desire, but do unto him as he may say to you.’”
Sarah’s compassion for Isaac is on display. Even in the face of distress, a mother brings comfort and care.
Jewish tradition doesn’t understand nature as a mother. We do understand a mother’s love and response, however. Judaism views nature as testimony to God’s creation. The chaos onto which God imposes order, creating the elements and environment we live in. It is that very order we seek to restore when natural disasters come upon us. That now is our task.
If you wish to contribute to Hurricane relief efforts through our synagogue community, please send your check, payable to Chizuk Amuno Congregation, marked “Hurricane Relief” to my personal attention. As a community, by pooling our resources, we give voice to our values and the empathy of our mothers.