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Mar 14, 2011

Rav Lefkowitz on The Recent Tragedies

It seems the desire to play God's accountant and "know" the reasons behind different "natural" occurrences and disasters, is not unique to the jews, specifically the frum community, even though it sometimes seems like that.

Shortly after the disastrous earthquake and tsunami ripped through Japan wreaking horrible devastation, people were looking for why Japan deserved such a punishment. The most common of the reasons given that I saw is that it was payback for Japans attack on Pearl Harbor. To me it seems like a major stretch to come to Pearl Harbor and is totally illogical. Why should that be what they get punished for 60 years later in an event totally unrelated to the United States? And that after you can say they already received their punishment in their loss of WWII and the bombings at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. If you want to be God's accountant, at least find a more relevant and likely suggestion. If you cant find anything bad a country did and have to look back 60 years, the country must be pretty good!

So, it is not just frum Jews who try to play God's accountant.

One thing good about the attempt to be the bean counter is that it means people are trying to find meaning in the disaster, and apply it to real life behavior. That is what we are supposed to do, except we are supposed to look to learn lessons for our own behavior, and not look to find ways to blame and accuse other people.

To that end, Rav Michel Yehuda Lefkowitz told a group of rosh yeshivas that regarding the earthquake and tsunami in Japan that as of right now Hashem is doing chessed with us and is only harming the non-Jews. He quoted the passuk in Tzefanya that says "Look to Me and learn a lesson" and explained that Hashem first pays the non-Jews for their actions, and expects that via that the Jews will "wake up" before he has to pay us for our actions. This is a warning "hit", like a father who hits his son to educate him.

Rav Lefkowitz added regarding the murder of the Fogel family in Itamar, that if we dont seek out what Hashem wants from us, we will keep getting hit until we do complete teshuva. (source: Kikar)
This is the way to be God's accountant - to discuss what we have to do to improve, each individual for himself, or each community. Not to say what other people do wrong and how they should improve. We should learn the lessons and improve!


  1. regarding the earthquake and tsunami in Japan that as of right now Hashem is doing chessed with us and is only harming the non-Jews.

    This makes me want to vomit. To me he's being a false prophet trying to tell us what God is "thinking". There are very specific punishments for people who feign prophecy. Not to mention the massive Chilul Hashem such a statement represents.

    I heard in the name of Rav Avraham Twerski that there is this very unfortunate attitude among some that non-Jews are merely props on the stage of Jewish history.

    Excuse me while I barf.

  2. You should learn some Navi after you barf and you will see the truth.

  3. Why would you want to follow a God who would kill people, be they non-jew or jews, in order to teach people, to make them do teshuva?

    And teshuva for what? Were the Fogels killed because I don't keep Shabbat? Did thousands of Japanese die because I don't keep kosher? And this Rabbi thinks God wants me to do teshuva? God should do teshuva.

  4. Had nobody suggested that it's for putting those kids in prison for smuggling the drugs? They shook these kids' world and claimed these kids brought something dangerous by means of the "seas" and therefore had an earthquake and the sea brought forth unimaginable destruction...
    a bit of a longshot, but is anyone else surprised it hasn't been correlated yet (unless of course it has)

  5. Roughing up rookie smugglers? Cute. But that's about it.

    I think this idea of looking around the world and being inspired doesn't mean "uh oh G-d is starting with 'them' so I better wake up." It's more like "wow G-d is really powerful, and He's involved in the world - I better take my own actions more seriously."

    For G-d, we're all props on the stage of the world's history.

  6. There's a huge difference between looking around the world and being inspired to introspect and saying that innocent non-Jews were slaughtered merely to teach us a lesson.

    For G-d, we're all props on the stage of the world's history.

    Well that certainly flies in the face of the free choice we're supposed to have.

  7. For example I'm not sure I would call the Nazi Holocaust an expression of anyone's free will.

  8. Definitely the bochurimMarch 15, 2011 9:05 AM

    I'm with Danish on this one- we said right away that people will say it's a divine punishment for the terrible treatment of the bochurim in Japan.

  9. Really anon? Individual germans had no free will? What about the ones who did good things? What about the Rabbis/Rosh Yeshivas who told their people to stay/go?

    Maybe, God "hardened" Hitler's heart or something, but there were millions of instances of free will within the maelstrom.

  10. That doesn't mean we can influence overall trends in history, only that we control our individual participation.

    Saying that innocent deaths are meant to "serve" some other group also sounds stupid to me. But saying that the deaths aren't innocent would also be inappropriate - the approach I generally look to is that we don't understand most of what's going on. Free will doesn't explain it either.

  11. But what I do find myself searching for is the timing of both Japan and Itamar coinciding. Both such different tragedies, both so meaningful to me for different reasons. And both heard about at the same time (I guess there were news reports erev Shabbat about Japan but I missed them?)


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