New York – 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:
1. Prohibition of idolatry
2. Prohibition of murder
3. Prohibition of theft
4. Prohibition of sexual promiscuity
5. Prohibition of blasphemy
6. Prohibition of flesh taken from a live animal
7. 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.
That is the poorest attempt at theodicy since Pat Robertson’s tirade. Earthquakes are caused by the movement of tectonic plates in the earth’s crust. They occur without regard to people’s behavior (and were around long before people arrived on the scene).
If natural disasters were a function of a “Natural Law” of which Torah is a part, then one should be able to explain, from a scientific perspective, exactly how much avoda zara I have to commit (and where) before I cause an earthquake in Haiti or a flood in New Orleans. If you have no way of explaining that, or testing the theory, that means that you can’t make a serious claim that earthquakes and avoda zara are linked in the natural order of things.
I don’t understand
This does not fit with G-d controling
There are two Chazals on this matter :
Kol b’dai Shomayim chutz m’tzinah u’pachad.
Kol b’dai Shomayim chutz m’yiras Shomayim.
Chazal link the Earth’s weather conditions to yiras Shomayim of Yidden with these two meimros. Rav Avrohom Chayim Feurer Shlita gave a maamar on this inyan in my Yeshiva years ago.
this confuses me… is Rabbi Twerski saying that each individual doesn’t necessarily get what he “deserves” in his lifetime? So is this “corrected” in the next world? (or next incarnation?)…perhaps “tefila”– prayer– can change the “natural” order…
The only way that people around the world will recognize the importance of sheva mitzvos is if Yidden are telling them about it and how it affects everyone – including ourselves. That’s why the Rambam says that Moshe Rabbeinu gave us a command from Hashem to get everyone in the world to keep sheva mitzvos.
Huh? So someone violates Noachide laws in say San Fransisco, and the people in Haiti and Indonsia get tsushmettered. A little too simplistic sounding to me and it does not answer the question of why did G-d allow such a catastrophe to happen to so many innocent people. I think a better answer would be, that sometimes we don’t have a good answer for our questions.
wow, Rabbi Twersky. This is well said. It’s a long time since I heared such a Sechel Hayashar on current events. Keep up the good work. We need more lectures like these. Hatzlacha
Hokol bshvil yisroel
excellent! how beautifully written. what a politically correct essay. makes no one take the blame. but yet makes the point how everyone is resposible for the world we live in. jew or gentile. he should spread his teachings throughout the world! the world can use a preacher like this dr. rabbi.
David – We live in a secuilar society where it is understood that one needs to educated in neuroscience in order to argue with a neurologist about neurology – but it’s open season on theology . . . anyone can tear into an learned Rav without having even a basic intellectual appreciation of Jewish theology. There is a lot of intellectua; meat here – and to call Rabbi Twersky’s comments “theodicy” is both ignorant and silly. Go study
Twesky is saying if someone commits a sin it will disturb the laws of nature and someone will get hurt but probably not the one who committed the sin. Is this fair?
Surely God could have made a better world.
In shulchan urach there is a brucha for earth quakes and the reason is to show the strength of ‘Hashem’ through the teva of the world. check the mishna berura its simple we need to learn more about haskofa.
I am very suprised to hear a mainstream Orthdox rabbi like R’ Twerski engage in such theodicy. It’s a shame that this will taint his previous pseudo-scientific works.
Smart. Logical. Honest. What more do you want?
He is right when he says that what we do affects others.
When we, for example, drive high-fuel consumption cars, we are sending money overseas where tyrannical dictatorships use that money to maintain power and promote terrorism within their own countries (killing dissenters) as well as around the world. No matter what we think about “global warming”, it does not matter. We have companies building real electric-powered cars, employing real Americans right here. So lets cut off their cash supply and once again, we can do something here to change the world… for the better.
after 2 weeks this is what he has to say i – perhaps what he did during the 2 weeks is what he should have continued doing.
say I too dont know!
did anyone hear what Rabbi Elyashiv or Rabbi Kanievsky Or Rabbi Shteinman or the Chassidic Rebbes said? they all said nothing!!! at least not to the public.
will twersky say the holocaust was “Natural Order”?
at times one is best going back to the basics of judaism. to remind oneself “Hanistaros L’hasem”, and if one happens to think they know the reason, but those living around them wont be able to understand it , they are better off remaining silent.
i think this qualifies as one such example.
i will be dan lkaf zechus that he didnt intend these remarks to be made public or he simply offered a possible reason not a verdict.
We could ask the question – why? But earthquakes, tornadoes, tsunamis have occurred worldwide from time immemorial. It’s G-D’s way of waking us up. Firstly, the Jewish people must do tshuvah. We are lacking today more than probably anytime since ancient history when there was idol worship in the Land. Today, much of the same is happening. Read what’s happening in EY (missionaries,etc.) Secondly, we cannot understand HaShem’s ways. There are many people in Haiti worshiping voodoo, something the ancient Egyptians were notorious for. Who knows the answer. There is another aspect to this, the powers today are manipulating the weather & are working on all kinds of things that the public is not aware of. Even if sometimes, things of this nature are done by man – it’s because G-D knows that evil is perpetrated by man & sometimes He hands out whatever befalls man through the natural forces of nature & man. Whatever the reason, only He knows, but we must learn something from it. The poor Haitians have suffered terribly & it’s wonderful to see the outpouring of chesed from the world & it’s good to read all the accolades Israel got for their chesed. We pray for Hashem’s mercy.
The bottom line is take it as a warning. It is meant to show something regardless so take the warning and look and Hashems strength! A country that takes years to build can be destroyed in 20 seconds .
A babbling bubbe meyse.
all this feel good attitude of naive writers about hashem punishing people for sins is nothing but baloney for the no brainers in here acting like 2 year olds and not using their g-d given saihel brain its a shame how grown ups act like infants a shande
The Noachide laws have been violated since the beginning of time. According to this logic, there should be an earthquake every day all over the world. I can think of good few places where there should have been earthquakes.. How about Nazi Germany – Inquisition Spain, Czarist Russia, just to name a few. We could use a good one in Teheran.
I would venture to say that the earthquake is, as Rashi says in Parshas Vaera – G-d does “sfhotim” in the world – as a warning to Klal Yisroel to improve. No coincidence that the earthquake was in the week of Parshas Vaera.
I haven’t ever said this about anything written on VIN before today.
Rabbi Dr. Twersky: siyug lachochma shtika.
This is the worst explanation of disasters I have ever heard of in my entire life..
OH… Thats true words rabbi twersky is 100% right! and even if only a few people in the whole world will behayve and act better is it all 4 rabbi twerskys credit and GD should help that it shou’dnt happin agen such things.
So basically when we humans don’t keep the Noahide laws we mess with nature and that is when disaster happen.
I have always relied on something like this concept to answer my questions. The world works Al Pi Derech Hetava and things like reward, punishment and justice are left for the World To Come. But I do have a hard time reconciling that with the notion that we can pray to Hashem for intervention. What’s the point? Why daven for one specific sick person when the next day 80,000 people are about to be wiped out? No good answer.
The other problem I have is that it seems to me that we are taught to believe that even this much isn’t true, and that in fact, Hashem does intervene constantly, in the literal sense. Isn’t that why the first Commandment is not “I am Hashem who created the world,” but rather, “I am Hashem who took you out of Egypt”? To illustrate that Hashem did not just put Teva in place and leave it at that?
Reply to # 26. Could I have your apartment ?
Future generations will ask the same question : why ? ” And only a fool waits for an answer “.
We say three times a day — in the second paragraph of Aleinu — that we hope to see the day when, during the final geula, the Ribbono Shel Olam will remove idolatry from the earth and cuts off all false gods. But when we actually SEE it actually happening (look up Haitian Vodou on Wikipedia: it is one of the most egregious examples of idolatry and witchcraft extant in the world today) everyone gets all politically correct and chastises those who dare to suppose that the words of Aleinu are EMES.
Both Navi’im and Chazal have told us that during the time of Chevlei Moshiach (birthpangs of Messiah) the world will experience many man-made and natural disasters, and that many people will perish. I am amazed at how many commenters on this thread, so-called ba’alei emunah, are in denial of this…all for the sake of Political Correctness. You need to either stop saying Aleinu, or examine your emunas Hashem.
I am shocked by the drivel that R’ Twerski published. First of all “…disruption of the Natural Law according to which the world operates, and the consequences of such disruption may occur on a distant continent.” is not a scientifically provable statement. I do not understand what natural law he is referring to. His writing also completely disagrees with Rambam who in his writings states that natural disasters are not not due to aveyros but are strictly natural disasters.
I totally disagree with Rabbi Twersky’s explanation. Everyone is judged according to his deeds. Some difficulties and advantages are the results of sins and mitzvos respectively. Other events are in the nature of tests for an individual.
Poverty may be a punishment or a test for a person. No one gets what they don’t deserve without some cheshbon of din or trade off in terms of s’char.
This totally random explanation of Rabbi Twersky is not correct in my opinion.
Everyone is entitled to their opinion…. Unfortunately.
I will just stick to my Rabbi and do as he says, even he doesn’t agree with my “educated” opinion.
I don’t know why every one looks for answer its aopen gemoro Brochos 59
its because Hashem drops 2 tears in ocean because he can’t handel tzoros yisroel in golus
&this; brings it
so we have to do tshuva to get out of golus
& this brings it
from an Associated Press report:
“Ena Zizi had been at a church meeting…when last week’s earthquake struck, trapping her. She was rescued yesterday by a Mexican disaster team. Zizi said that after the quake…,she spent the rest of the time praying and waiting. ‘I talked only to my boss, G-d,’ she said. ‘And I didn’t need any more humans.'”
From out of the idolatry of Haitian Voodoo, this gentile woman gave the world a valuable lesson…the lesson that this earthquake was meant to teach…the lesson that we Jews proclaim in Aleinu three times a day (see my comment at #40 ). Read her words again: “I TALKED ONLY TO MY BOSS, G-D.” If only the world would listen. She understood that G-d controls EVERY event in the world and that G-d alone was able to save her. Here is a ba’ales emunah among the gentiles. What a shame that so many so-called Orthodox Jews commenting here need to learn this lesson as well.
reply to # 40. The world has experienced both man made and natural disasters for many millenia. does that mean , that we’ve been experiencing “chevlei-moshiach ‘all along ?
In my opinion the Haitians were punished for their own deeds. There is no reason to think they are being punished for others deeds. Hashem is no reason to think they are being punished for others deeds. Hashem is giving them what He feels they deserve. People like to forget, its G-d’s world and we as humans must live by His rules. Humans have no right to exist we only exist because G-d in His abundant Endless kindness chose to create man to bestow goodness upon him. When G-d feels that its time up that’s it its time up. The people of the flood were that its time up that’s it its time up. The people of the flood were punished for their actions, the people of Soddom and Gomorah were punished for their sins and Haiti was punished for its sins. You can google it, 1/2 of the population Haiti is actively involved in Voodoo practice. My instincts tell me G-d was very patient with these people for many years but He just HAD ENOUGH OF THEIR IDOL WORSHIPPING WAYS. punished for their actions, the people of Soddom and Gomorah were punished for their sins and Haiti was punished for its sins. You can punished for their sins and Haiti was punished for its sins. You can google it, 1/2 of the population Haiti is actively involved in Voodoo google it, 1/2 of the population Haiti is actively involved in Voodoo practice. My instincts tell me G-d was very patient with these people for many years but He just HAD ENOUGH OF THEIR IDOL WORSHIPPING WAYS. practice. My instincts tell me G-d was very patient with these people for many years but He just HAD ENOUGH OF THEIR IDOL WORSHIPPING many years but He just HAD ENOUGH OF THEIR IDOL WORSHIPPING WAYS WAYS. Remember, every second of life on earth is a gift of G-d. If we live a life contrary to His wishes we FORFEIT our right to exist.
Rabbi Twerski, Thank you very much for the well written explanation. I heard of this before but you put it very well. I will save it and show to my family.
why can’t people disagree with rabbi twersky in a respectful manner? he does more for klal yisroel in a day then you anonymus big shots will do in a life time.
Hashem hu Elukim!
Rabbi Twerskey, I am extremely surprised that you, a Tchernobler and Bobver descendant would attempt to shut G-D out of this world. This goes against the Tanya, Chovas Halvovos and Eminah Ibatochon from the chazon Ish. No one and nothing can hurt another human being without G-D allowing and not just by natural creation free will.
As the Rambam explains, the paradox between free will and prediction of G-D cannot be explained, and is only natural that we cannot understand our creator. If we would understand him, we would be him. If we want to theorize why this happened, maybe these third world creatures are reincarnations of previous sinful people.
Dr. Twerski, You opened a Pandoras-box.
Please don’t lump natural sciences like physics, laws of gravity, geology which are universal with “natural laws” of morality which are subjective to interpretation and different with every society and every culture. You believe that Zohar is your source of Natural laws, but Asian cultures were not exposed to Judea-Christian theology through crusades and colonialism. They do not share similar moral codes, but have a rich history of existence that spans over 3,000 years as well. Twersky’s article is contradicting. First he says things like earthquakes, accidents are not punitive acts of God but rather natural occurrences, and then jumps to blame immorality for the reason why these things happen.
According to U.S. Geological Survey and geophysicists around the world, tectonic plate shifting is not related to human behavior, rather a natural occurrence as land mass constantly moves. Countries like Japan, Iran, Argentina, Israel are situated near fault lines and are prone to strong earthquakes once ever 100 years. There are thousands of earthquakes around the world every year, most under 4 magnitude so don’t hear about them.
I don’t know why every one looks for answer its aopen gemoro Brochos 59
its because Hashem drops 2 tears in ocean because he can’t handel tzoros yisroel in golus
&this; brings it
so we have to do tshuva to get out of golus
& this brings it
Dr. Twerski , If your intention was to open a dialogue,then you you have succeeded beyond imagination . It ,makes good reading. I congratulate you .
Just before he was niftar Rebbe Chaim Dovid Thoreau (the Rachdat) was asked by one of his chasidim how he preceived the relationship between our own actions and those of the general community to our fate and especially to olam habah. He answered very simply. His exact words were, “One world at a time.” He said no more before his p’tirah. There is much to be learned from this imrah of the Rachdat. We should be anavim; we don’t know and it is preferable not to speculate. Just keep quiet, and work on our own midos and try to influence those around you for their (and our) good. Opinions like that reportedly expressed by this respected rav are simply superfluous. And there is no point in arguing whether he is right or wrong. S’yag l’chomchah – shtikah.
To all the chachomim on this website my question is. In Brazil they practice a form of voodoo/witchcraft called santeria nevertheless Brazil is an upcoming economy. The Real is a hard currency and its economy with India and China are booming and Lula has improved the national standard of living. They just discovered petroleum and export aircrafts and machinery
1. The Haitian earthquake has nothing to do with the Jewish people. It is not a signal or message. It was a predictable natural event. God created the laws of nature and the earthquake follows those laws. Same for gravity, evolution and all of science.
2. Someone who eats cholov akum in America probably enjoys it. It doesn’t cause anything else anywhere. And it’s not a bad thing either.
After reading comments all over the internet where people were rightfully outraged at Pat Robertson’s inane and insensitive comments, calling him senile and heartless, I’m just happy that nobody outside the frum world will hear about Rabbi Twerski’s equally offensive and illogical statement.
Alex (comment #42 ) – the Rambam writes that anyone who says yissurin “just happened” – mikra nikreis – is an achzar – cruel (I believe it is in Hilchos Teshuva, but I would have to find the exact perek/halacha). What writings of the Rambam are you referring to when you say “Rambam who in his writings states that natural disasters are not not due to aveyros but are strictly natural disasters.”?
Rabbi Twersky’s letter is illogical, incoherent and cruel. As others here said, better to say I don’t know than to offer some foolish, unproven explanantion.
1) G-ds running the world is not natural law. It is religious law. Natural law follows the scientific method and is true in every case. Newton’s law F=m d2x/dx2 applies always and can be tested. But “divine punishment” is completely different. Why weren’t the Nazis punished. A handful were, but most went scot-free, including Hitler, Mengele and thousands others. All the cruel communists went unpunished. Same with many tzorerey yisroel. Why doesn’t Rabbi Twersky’s “Natural Law” apply to them?
2) What kind of Divine Justice punishes A for the crime of B? Is G-d a moron? He can’t figure out who the culprit is? Or he just doesn’t care? When somebody is robbed, lets just catch any random guy off the street and punish him, rather than the police and courts punishing the criminal.
3) When a drunk driver or a murderer kills an innocent person, does Rabbi Twersky also believe this is Natural Law, and the person died for nothing? Obviously the RBSH runs every occurrence and if the person was not supposed to die, he would not.
Reply to # 84. That’s democracy at it’s best : freedom of speech !
Alex: My responses to you were specifically to the following words, which you wrote at comment #42 : “Rambam in his writings states that natural disasters are not not due to aveyros but are strictly natural disasters.” This does not square with what you yourself quoted from Taanis 1:3 in which Rambam writes that when people INCORRECTLY say that “‘this happened to us because of *natural causes,* and this distress occurred coincidentally,’ this is the way of cruelty as it causes them to adhere to their EVIL DEEDS.”
Now, what are “evil deeds” if not aveyros? So, restating Rambam: if people fail to recognize that Hashem has brought upon them disasters through nature as punishments for their evil deeds (aveyros), they will not do teshuva and continue to do aveyros.
Rambam is fully in accord with Droshos HaRan (see comment #92 ), to wit: “Sometimes events occur in faraway places and on faraway islands in order to stir Israel to do teshuva with dread and fear, LEST THE SAME PUNISHMENT COME UPON THEM.”
So, Rabbi Twerski has support from both Rambam and Ran that Hashem punishes people for their aveyros by inflicting upon them disasters of nature. (Hardly “drivel” as you labeled it). Finis
For me, this is the key passage: “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.”
I am perfectly willing to accept that we should analyze natural disasters the same way we do man-made tragedies. If we accept man-made tragedies, we should accept natural disasters, on the theory that they are both equally the results of natural law in action.
But is it in fact the case that we have no questions when an innocent person is killed by a reckless driver? Don’t we wonder why Hashem lets that happen? If we insist that He controls all, in the most literal sense, that even the workings of natural law are subject to His intervention (why else do we say Tehillim for a choleh?), then shouldn’t we ask why accidents happen?
I understand the logic of equating accidents to natural disasters, but I still haven’t figured out how to reconcile accidents in the first place.