One minute they were sunning themselves in the middle of a
carefree vacation at the beach. The next they were struggling
for their lives in the raging torrent that poured in from the
A reminder that life is fragile. A reminder that man does not
dominate his environment completely but that his environment
can easily overwhelm him in an instant. A reminder that there
are greater powers than ourselves, and that there is a Great
Power Who is behind it all.
Eliahu z"l explained to Rav Nehorai that when
HaKodosh Boruch Hu sees all the pleasure palaces of
the world sitting serene and that His Beis Hamikdash
is destroyed, he looks at the world to destroy it. [And that
can bring earthquakes.] However when He sees Yisroel going to
shul and saying, Shema Yisroel . . . and the angels
gather and say, "You are there before the world, and once the
world was created. You are in This World and in the World to
Come. Sanctify Your Name upon those who sanctify it." —
then He is calmed and does not destroy the world. . . .
Hashem shakes the world because of the destruction of the
Beis Hamikdash . . . (Based on Yalkut Shimoni,
It is a very basic lesson, but one that is apparently very
hard to learn in the world as it is: that Hashem is
constantly supervising the world.
In the Beis Hamikdash, where the presence of the
Shechinah was evident in addition to the ten constant
miracles, there was no forgetting the link between the world
and Hashem. Now that it has long been destroyed, there is no
special place like that where the Presence is so strong.
People do not feel this Presence, and they become involved in
their own worlds, especially in those pleasure palaces that
are dedicated to glorifying the body beyond all proper
proportion. One who is engrossed in the theater, for example,
will forget the Presence of Hashem. The spectacle is designed
to make its audience totally involved in it, to the exclusion
of everything else. That causes, as it were, Hashem to shake
things up to remind everyone that He is still there.
One might think that this is a lesson that can be learned
once and for all. Is it so hard?
However we see that the Torah itself insists that we all
review it twice daily in saying and focusing on Krias
Shema. Everyone must do this from children to the
greatest sages. Its content seems simple enough, but truly
learning it is very hard. In a sense it is an important
message of all Torah and mitzvah fulfillment. We spend our
whole lives learning it.
An interesting affirmation of this was provided in some of
the reports that came back of Jews who were caught in the
rushing waters. No one sang Hatikvah or declaimed the
Independence Scroll of the State of Israel. Rather they
screamed out Shema Yisroel with all of their strength
— and were answered by other Jews in the vicinity. It
was that fundamental expression of the deepest Jewish truth
that burst forth in that time of extreme danger. Even if
those unfortunate Jews did not review this lesson twice a day
prior to that morning, it is nonetheless a truth that is part
of their soul.
The images of that terrible disaster in the Indian Ocean may
help us to learn the lesson, but we hope that we do not have
to live through such an experience to implant this truth on
our soul, and that our daily review will be sufficient.
Hopefully, the entire world will also learn something.