Toronto has just undergone one of the nastiest and most destructive storms in recent memory, when an ice storm brought Toronto to it’s knees. Many trees cracked underneath the sheer weight of the ice crystals that formed, the crystals being close to twice the size of the actual branches. When these trees bent over and cracked, not only did they pose a threat to drivers, but they also knocked down many power lines which posed a real danger of electrocuting people. Over 300,000 households were without power. High-rise apartments had it worse as many people couldn’t even use the bathroom as electricity was needed to push water up to the apartments! This was a complete mess that could not have been avoided, and Toronto did the best job possible in restoring power for many households as quickly as possible.
This past Shabbos Rabbi Tzvi Heber mentioned how it’s ironic that the week this occurred was the same week we read Parshas Va’era, where one of the plagues covered is that of Barad (Hail). In my opinion, while this wasn’t a case where fire and water worked together side by side, the ice crystals – cold – wrapping around the trees, branches and bushes – warm as they’re alive – had its similarities. He pointed out that the ice crystals represented beauty, and it was for us to recognize the beauty of Hashem’s creations when looking at something like ice crystals.
I personally took two lessons from this. One lesson I took was in response to Rabbi Heber’s comment. I respectfully disagree with his comment. The ice crystals to me represent beauty, but only external beauty. The trees – living beings with tons of growth potential – represent us. When external beauty consumes us, we crash and fall, affecting not only ourselves, but those around us (like the cars). In fact, our prayers hint to this in “Emes-Veyatziv” right after the morning Shema prayer. The first word is Emes, then succeeded by a string of words beginning with the prefix “V” – Vekayam veyashar, etc. The last word in the string is “Veyafeh” (and beauty). This shows us that since Emes, truth, and V’Yafeh, and (external) beauty, are the first and last words, this teaches us that beauty is the farthest thing from truth (someone in shul once told me that gem).
Therefore, we should take it to heart the next time we let our material desires consume us, as they will ultimately drag us down, hurting us and those around us, just like what the beautiful ice did to the living trees and bushes.
The second lesson I took from this was with regards to the power outage. When the power went out, we had to do many things in a primitive manner, and some of us had to resort to spending a night at a hotel in Downtown Toronto, where there was power as there were fewer trees to fall down – rather, there were no trees around. Between that and that my workplace was closed due to the power outage, the lesson I got from here was to stop and enjoy time with family once in a while, being treated to a hotel night.
I think many of us took away personal lessons from this storm on how to improve ourselves. That’s what I think it’s all about, self improvement. Otherwise, it was a wasted lesson that will need to be repeated another day until we finally get the message.