Once again earthquakes have hit the headlines as thousands die because of a disastrous and devastating earthquake that recently hit southern Asia and caused tidal waves of enormous destruction. While scientists are busy trying to analyze the causes of earthquakes and searching for better ways to predict their onset, people living in heavily populated areas are having their own fears as to the possibility of tremblers striking close to home. It boggles the imagination to think of the destruction that would result if New York’s skyscrapers were suddenly given a jolt from below. The result could chas v’shalom be catastrophic! Yet, despite all advances in modern technology, scientists are still far from being able to determine with any degree of accuracy when or where earthquakes will strike next, and certainly can’t do much about it.
Chazal tell us that every seemingly natural earthly disaster is decreed to precision in the heavens above and nothing happens by chance or coincidence. The Gemara Yevomos 63 states that every disaster carries a message for the Jew. Rashi explains that the fear should bring us to do teshuvah.
The Gemara ( Yerushalmi Berochos Perek 9 ) relates that Eliyahu once asked Rebbi Nehoroi, why earthquakes come upon the world. Rabbi Nehoroi answered as follows: “When Hakodosh Boruch Hu looks down upon the world and sees the theaters and stadiums standing erect in great peace and tranquility, while His own Bais Hamikdosh lies in ruins, He immediately wants to destroy the world. However, the moment the Jews enter theirshuls and study halls and declare the unity of His Holy Name by crying out the Shema Yisroel… Hashem echod, the heavenly angels assemble before Him and give Him great praise. Thereupon Hashem is appeased.”
This Gemara teaches us the great power of Krias Shma. If not for our daily cry of Shema Yisroel the world would turn into a heap of rubble. Perhaps if we’d be aware of the great power these words wield, then we’d surely say them with as much kavonah as we can.
The Gemara tells us that had the nations of the world known of the great benefits they derived from the sacrifices that the Jews brought in the Bais HaMikdash, they would have sent their armies to defend and protect it! If only we ourselves would realize the great power of our Shma Yisroel!
How tragic it is to see that the same theaters and stadiums that threaten the world’s existence have now gained access into many Jewish homes and steal away those precious and valuable minutes and hours that one could have better spent studying our Holy Torah. Even worse, they attack our own moral values as well as those of our children. How painful it must be when Hakodosh Boruch Hu sees a Jew who should be using his every spare moment immersed in the wellsprings of Torah, drowning instead in a sea of entertainment whose waves are filled with polluted sewer water.
For this the prophet Yermiyahu cries out in deep pain: “Ki schtayim ro’ous os’u ami “- “Two evils has my nation done. “osi osvu m’kor mayim chayim” – Me they have forsaken, the source of fresh water. “Lachtzof lo’hem b’eirous, b’eiros nishborim” – To dig for themselves wells, wells that are broken. It’s bad enough that we have abandoned the source of pure fresh water. How much worse is it to see that we have exchanged them for wells that are polluted with poison!
When the study halls are nearly deserted while most homes have been turned into miniature theaters and stadiums, is it a wonder, that every so often, Hashem gives the earth a very hard jolt from below?