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Why The Earthquake in Haiti Happened

This post has been crossposted to DovBear. More discussion there.

Since the Earthquake in Haiti many have attempted to figure out “why” the tragedy occurred.

There are 4 prominent versions going around the web right now.

Rabbi Shafran Version 1: God punished the people of Haiti because of evil speech.
Rabbi Shafran Version 2: We don’t know why God punished the people of Haiti but the lesson is that we should learn is not to speak evil speech.
Rabbi Levin: The earthquake and Tsunami and 9/11 happened because of Gays in the military.
Rabbi Feldman: We can’t know why the earthquake happened, but it happened for “a reason”.

What has been missing from this is a more rational approach predicated on the teachings of Rav Yaakov Weinberg Ztz”l Rosh Yeshiva of Ner Yisrael.

Let’s start with a hypothetical question.

Gerald is driving through the desert. He gets lost and runs out of fuel. He gets out of the car to start walking to find a gas station. He wanders for a little while. Eventually he runs out of water. He dehydrates and eventually dies in the desert.

Why did he die?

That is easy. He died because he ran out of water in a desert. The rules of nature that God created and recreates every moment dictate that when a man has no water in a desert he will dehydrate and probably die shortly thereafter. God does not bend or adjust the rules of nature to save him. Nor should God bend the rules of nature. The relationship God has with the world is that of a hidden God. God hides behind the mask of nature and does not show Himself.

There is a fault line the lies beneath Port Au Prince. It was suggested by geologists in late 2008 that there could be a severe earthquake in Haiti as a result of this fault line. In January 2010 the plates along the fault line shifted. A massive earthquake ensued. Thousands of people died and many more were injured.

Why did they die?

That is also easy. They died because there was an earthquake. The rules of nature that God created and recreates at every moment dictate that when tectonic plates shift it can cause a massive earthquake. God does not bend or adjust the rules of nature to stop the earthquake. Nor should God bend the rules of nature. The relationship God has with the world is that of a hidden God. God hides behind the mask of nature and does not show Himself.

What about the stories in Chumash and Tanach (Old Testament) that report miracles to save individuals or groups of people?

Once in a while God does bend the rules of nature. This is rare and only happens in extreme circumstances. We call this a miracle. It is really a misnomer because everything is a miracle. Nature is a miracle just as much as the supernatural. But we only recognize or would recognize the supernatural miraculous. Miracles can happen, but we don’t rely on miracles nor do we expect miracles as part of the usual system and order of the universe. The universe follows the rules of nature that God created and recreates every moment.

What about the words of Chazal (Talmudic Rabbis) that blame natural disasters on sin?

I can’t answer with certainty but there are a few options:

- For lack of scientific information they did not realize that earthquakes or other phenomena were “natural” and supposed they were supernatural events thus requiring a Divine reason.

- They were referring to a place and time where God did intervene on a constant basis.

- They were speaking polemically and urging Klal Yisrael to improve their ways and as a way of admonishing them they used exegesis to connect disaster with sin.

- They were misquoted or quoted out of context.

Then there is the Rambam. In hilchos Taanis, the Rambam states that when harm befalls the tzibur it incumbent upon klal yisrael to do teshuva and attribute the suffering the “way of the world” rather the bad things that happened were because of their evil sins.

This has been misquoted and misapplied in many instances. The Rambam is talking about a tragedy that happens to the tzibur. The tzibur refers to the Jewish community. So a harm among the a specific Jewish community is the time that we must attribute the harm to OUR sins.

What Rabbis Shafran Version 1, Feldman and Levin are doing is trying to use this Rambam in an instance of a tragedy that befell ANOTHER group of people. The earthquake was not a disaster that happened to the Jewish tzibur. It happened to another tzibur. Thus, the Rambam does not apply.

When would the Rambam apply? At most a tragedy that targets the tzibur. Most strictly constructed it would be when a harm is specific to the Jewish people.

So what are we supposed to do when tragedy strikes? When there is a Hurricane like Katrina, a Tsunami like there was in Southeast Asia or Earthquake like in Haiti?

We work on our compassion. We work on our empathy. We help as much as we can. We remember that life is fleeting and it can all end in a moment. We try to reenergize our relationships. We improve in our avodas Hashem. We find a way to use the tragedy to inspire us. It is personal.

For anyone to assume they know why this tragedy happened fails on three counts.

1) It did not happen to us. It happened to someone else. Do we believe in a God who punishes another party for OUR sins?

2) Maybe it did not happen for a reason? If it was natural then how are you going to apply some sin as the cause for nature? Do you blame sin every time a lion eats a gazelle in the African plain? How about when an innocent bystander is killed by a drunk driver? Did the bystander “deserve it”?

3) Even if it did happen for a reason, who are you to tell me why it happened? You think YOU know? Your puny little brain can figure out why God acts in the way He does? You know all the factors that go into “causing a natural disaster”? At best it is presumptuous at worst it is extreme arrogance bordering on apikorsus.

For anyone to guess why this happened fails on another count.

Nevuah (prophecy) ended thousands of years ago. A Navi (prophet) was like a spiritual doctor, one was able to see a Navi and ask why bad things were happening to you and the Navi could tell you why. The Navi was connected to God. That is over. It ended a long time ago. I am suspect of anyone claiming to know what God is “thinking” because they have no way of knowing.

Trying to pretend like we know why the earthquake happened, even if we assume it happened for a reason, is wrong.

But at least Rabbi Shafran Version 2 and Rabbi Feldman are telling US to improve our lives in the wake of the tragedy.

Only one goofball has the gall to tell OTHER people how to act in response to the tragedy. Only Levin has the audacity to tell the Government of the USA that it’s “their fault” this happened. Only Levin completely abrogates himself and places the blame on something that is external to him and his group.

It is akin to telling a grieving mother that her son who was run over by a car was run over because the lady across the street had an affair. Ridiculous. Irresponsible. Self-righteous. Idiotic. Moronic. (Help me out here… I am sure there are more words…)

In summary, there are varying levels of what I believe to be errors in the wake of this tragedy. The least egregious is trying to figure what the precise message of the earthquake is. The most egregious is telling a 3rd party that they caused the tragedy of another.

My view, as I stated just after the earthquake, and the view of my Rebbeim is that the tragedy was a natural disaster. There was no malicious intent or direct message being sent to the people of Haiti or anyone else for that matter. However, it is useful for us to use the incident as inspiration to improve our lives and live each moment we are fortunate to be alive as a way of making the world a better place.

Postscript: A worthwhile read is Rabbi Dov Kramer’s approach which is very similar to what is written here just comes from a different direction.


21 Comments
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  • Yaira

    When I first saw the title of this post, I was a little shocked that you would claim to be explaining why the earthquake happened, but after reading it, I really appreciate you posting this, and clarifying the more rational view on the causes of natural disasters.

  • http://finkorswim.com rabbifink

    Haha! Then the title worked!

    Thanks for checking it out. You coming to visit anytime soon?

    • http://twitter.com/daniopp The Law

      >What about the words of Chazal (Talmudic Rabbis) that blame natural disasters on sin?
      >
      >I can’t answer with certainty but there are a few options:

      Why not list an option that they were right?

      thats also an option…

  • http://finkorswim.com rabbifink

    That is the default.

    If I am right I need to explain Chazal.

    If I am wrong then I don’t need to explain Chazal and it returns to the default.

  • Iselle

    Thank you so much for being my Rabbi. Those other people you listed, their opinions are the things that distance me from my religion, but what you write shows me that there is a NOT CRAZY, condemnatory, Orthodox view of things. I really appreciate that and it gives me so much more comfort knowing that someone with sense and a real life view of things is my religious counsel. You ROCK.

  • http://www.thefoundationstone.org Rabbi Simcha Weinberg

    Ahhh! A breath of fresh air; even more than your usual wonderful posts. Thank you. Your words helped me recall my father’s response to a young teen about the tragedy in Bangladesh. I wanted the album of the concert (Beatles) and he wanted me to first reflect on my reaction and confusion. He began the conversation with exactly the ideas you offer and guided me to study Derech Hashem – The Way of God by the Ramchal. He did follow up, when he felt I was ready with the difference between General and Personal Providence.

    I love your site and wish you much success. Your congregation is fortunate to have such a teacher and guide.

  • Chaim Gross

    I ambivalently agree, tragedy is part of natural life. But what can you say to the innocent victim about justice and mercy, Gods attributes and the derech hayashir? We all have our personality quirks, some obsessive and ritualistic to the point of OCD and yet the reality of Tefilah, Tzedakah and Teshuva doesnt always resonate with the facts of life, and the OCD sufferer and the victims of abuse silent scream seems unanswered.Where is the smile to offset those innocent babies thrown out of hospital windows by the gestapo in WWII, the Israeli student blown up in a pizza store , or even the innocent victims of the numerous other tragedies of life natural or man made; of course if its my family the point always seems sharper. It doesnt seem either right, just or purposeful.The voice of Hasem is not in the storm,tsunami, earthquake or tragedy of life but in a still quiet voice not everybody can hear because the storm is too loud. Hester Panim is the only response.
    Sorry for the reflex but the editorial was good. Chaim

  • Bruce Mullen

    Rabbi Fink

    Excellent. I agree also with Rabbi Feldman. Rabbenu Shafran and Levin are touting their own agendae; I find that distasteful (Shafran 1 and Levin can accurately be described even more harshly, but that tempts lashon harah). I think we would learn, if we could, that every individual who suffered/suffers from this tragedy chose a path which led irrevocably to Haiti: G-d leads man in the path that man chooses to follow.

  • http://www.electronicslab.ph Jam Reyes

    i have several relatives who were also vicitimized by the earthquake in Haiti. thank God that they were not seriously hurt. i hope and pray that Haiti would be able to recover soon from this disaster.

  • Kim Jay

    some of my friends who work in haiti were also victimized by that terrible earthquake. i was very thankful that they only suffered minor scratches.

  • Pingback: Fundamentalists and Extremists Are The Exception, Not The Rule | Pacific Jewish Center | Rabbi

  • http://twitter.com/MordechaiD MordechaiD

    Eli – I listened to a number of Shiurim from Rav Weinberg and I’m having trouble connected what I heard with what you wrote.

    Here’s a few relevant statements he made:

    Gd has complete control over everything in creation, which he must by definition since he is the Creator. The only issue is what level of judgment each particular element of creation has. The 6 days of creation was the creation of Natural Law – “Teva.” Unless there’s an open miracle (Neis Nigleh) G-d does not break Natural law. At the same time Natural Law leaves much room for Gd’s control since much of Natural Law is subject to “chance,” like the fact that a coin lands on heads or tails only 50% of the time. Landing on heads is an uncaused event, because otherwise it would be predictable, so Gd works within that unpredictability to manipulate the world as He sees fit.

    To what level does he manipulate/interfere? That depends on the level of judgment (Din) he relates with.

    If 75 people in India have to die Gd will not have a special judgment for each of those 75 people. Each of those 75 will die as part of the greater Judgment involved in Gds master plan. Is that master plan for India, for foreign nations, for the Jewish people or for the whole world? I don’t know. Gd has decided that EACH of those 75 should die, but not for their sake; rather, for the sake of the master plan.

    For the Jewish people Gd has a great level of judgment. That’s what Elokai Yisrael (Gd of Israel) means. That’s what Atah Bchartanu (Chosen People) means. He judges each Jew individually. Whatever happens to a Jew is a result of Gds specific judgment with that Jew. Rav Weinberg gave an example of that judgment by asking people in the audience if when they met their spouse they had seen the hand of Gd. (Another level of judgment is for the completely righteous, Tzadik Gamur. For them G-d gives existence even to entire nations for the sake of that Tzadik who may once pass through there.)

    Within that specific judgment Gd can DECIDE (judge) that a person should be subject to the choices made by another person. Free choice is a power that all humanity was given and Gd decides when he should subject a Jew, or a pawn in His greater master plan, to the choices of another human being. He said that for an individual to be subjected to the choices of another human being and not have the Hashgacha Pratis (individual attention/judgment) of Gd is a horrible judgment. I don’t know how common that judgment is, but from Rav Weinberg’s description of how horrible it was it sounded like it was reserved for special occasions. That level of judgment is described when the Torah says “Vhalachtem Imi BKeri VHalachti Imachem BKeri” – “When you deal with me in a manner of happenstance, I will deal with you in a manner of happenstance.” When a person/nation lives in a way that does not recognize Gd in his life, Gd will in turn subject that person/nation to a life without the direct attention of Gd; that is, a life at the mercy of the choices of others.

    Now, when Reuven decides to kill Shimon, Shimon will only die if Gd has DECIDED to leave him at the mercy of another human. Otherwise Gd will save him by causing the gun to malfunction, having a policeman walk by, etc.

    When Levi decides to jump off a cliff he has, with that action of jumping, decided to put himself in a new category of judgment that would require an open miracle to save him. Those miracles are extremely rare after the period of the First Temple. (I believe the miracle of Chanukah was an event where such a miracle occurred, which would help explain why we make a whole holiday out of it. There’s other factors as well).

    Another element of this discussion is that Gd does not, by definition, perpetrate evil. Only good can come from Gd. Evil is created by the choices of man. Those choices directly effect nature, but they can work through a physical or metaphysical mechanism. An earthquake will occur and people will die as a result of man’s choosing. What choices did he make that caused a natural disaster? You need a prophet to figure that out, but certain events leave pretty good clues to what man did wrong and in which direction he needs go to improve.

    He gave the example of Hitler as one whose evil was man made. Hitler was not an evil decree from Gd. Gd was involved in his success – for how else could a gangster become a world leader. But along the way to his success Gd gave the world ample opportunity to stop him and the world turned a blind eye – THEIR choice.

    So back to Haiti – it seems to me that Rav Weinberg would say there was a master plan judgment involved. The evil that occurred – thousands of deaths, losses, national and global pain is a result of man’s choices. Those choices caused this tragedy through physical and metaphysical mechanisms. Could Gd have stopped the tragedy without an open miracle? I think so. Earthquakes are subject to a level chance, just like weather conditions and like the flipping of a coin. There’s a window there for Gd to work within without open miracles. Why didn’t Gd stop it? I’m obviously no prophet, but I think one does have to think about what the message is. I’ve heard various suggestions of what the message might be, as you have. It seems to me you can never be sure, but if it’s about me improving my ways, or about my community/nation/world then we can only benefit from improvement. If we improve and we were wrong, at least we’re better off than we were before.

    This is all my understanding of his Shiurim. I am certainly open to the understanding of others who have heard his Shiurim and I’d love to discuss this. If you could refer me to a recording which argues with the above I’d appreciate it.

    Some of the sources:
    Why Bad Things Happen to Good People 2 &3 http://www.aishaudio.com/search/results.php?directspeaker=Weinberg%20ztl,%20Rav%20Yaakov – this has most of his position

    Jewish Response to World Events WY 809 – Aish Tape Library

    Seeing the Hand of G-d in our Daily Lives – http://www.613.org/rafiles/disk2/cd2/weinberg.htm

    13 Ikrim, Ikar 8-9 – Ner Israel Tape Library

    • http://finkorswim.com E. Fink

      Thanks for taking the time to research and post this.

      1) The “higher level” of hashgacha pratis exists in my understanding as well. It is just very rare and not the assumed level of Interaction. The Rambam holds it is an attainable level but a difficult level to attain.

      2) You assume that the v’halachtem imi b’keri is rare simply because it is horrible. This also a flawed assumption. It is horrible. It represents a distance between us and God. But it is the default in a time of hester panim. We suffer this fate due to the sins of our great grandparents. We lost nevuah, we lost open miracles and we lost this level of hashgacha. All equally terrible, but all equally lost.

      3) Your assumption that earthquakes are equal to flipping a coin is wrong. There is no “chance” involved in an earthquake. We know why and how they happen.

      4) I am SHOCKED to see this quote: when Reuven decides to kill Shimon, Shimon will only die if Gd has DECIDED to leave him at the mercy of another human. Otherwise Gd will save him by causing the gun to malfunction,

      I have heard from talmidim of R’ Weinberg that he held this NOT TO BE THE CASE. He held that we are all subject to the bechira of others. (This is really a moot point in the conversation as it relates to earthquakes – but I still feel I need to be mocheh. There must be an alternate understanding of this quote.)

      4) To make your final point you need to make 2 more assumptions. The first is that the earthquake was a result of choices. This may or may not be the case. Second you assume that there is a message FROM the earthquake. I disagree. As the Rambam says, when we see tragedy we have to change something. We need to contemplate our lives. There is no element of “causation”. To attribute evil to specific choices that were made is usually just an act of self righteousness.

      Again, I thank you for posting this. I just don’t see this as R’ Weinberg’s position based on other first hand information I have heard and the plain reading of the Rambam which he was so passionate about.

      • http://twitter.com/MordechaiD MordechaiD

        “You assume that the v’halachtem imi b’keri is rare simply because it is horrible. This also a flawed assumption. It is horrible. It represents a distance between us and God. But it is the default in a time of hester panim. We suffer this fate due to the sins of our great grandparents. We lost nevuah, we lost open miracles and we lost this level of hashgacha. All equally terrible, but all equally lost.”

        I recall listening to Rav Weinberg speak at the Agudah in Baltimore telling people to avoid living Bkeri with Gd lest they be subject to Keri. He was speaking about avoiding shady business practices. He must have believed the higher judgment to be within the reach of most people if they’d just straighten out. Also, as I wrote, in the recording he pointed to Hashgacha that most people can see when they meet their spouses.

        “Your assumption that earthquakes are equal to flipping a coin is wrong. There is no “chance” involved in an earthquake. We know why and how they happen.”

        We also know why and how thunderstorms happen, but they’re not absolutely predictable until they just about happen. The weatherman says 80% chance of rain, because there’s a 20% chance tha it won’t. Within those chances Gd can operate. Rav Weinberg gave weather as an example if I recall correctly.

        “I am SHOCKED to see this quote: ‘when Reuven decides to kill Shimon, Shimon will only die if Gd has DECIDED to leave him at the mercy of another human. Otherwise Gd will save him by causing the gun to malfunction.’ I have heard from talmidim of R’ Weinberg that he held this NOT TO BE THE CASE. He held that we are all subject to the bechira of others. (This is really a moot point in the conversation as it relates to earthquakes – but I still feel I need to be mocheh. There must be an alternate understanding of this quote.)”

        That was Rav Weinberg’s example. With Keri Gd won’t prevent the murder. Without Keri, but direct Din, Gd will prevent the murder if He wants to.

        “To make your final point you need to make 2 more assumptions. The first is that the earthquake was a result of choices. This may or may not be the case. Second you assume that there is a message FROM the earthquake. I disagree. As the Rambam says, when we see tragedy we have to change something. We need to contemplate our lives. There is no element of “causation”. To attribute evil to specific choices that were made is usually just an act of self righteousness.”

        He said ALL evil is the result of human choices. He gave earthquakes and crib deaths as examples. I encourage you to research this with his recordings and show my comments to his Talmidim. Its possible I’m misunderstanding, but this is what I heard on the recordings.

        • http://finkorswim.com E. Fink

          I recall listening to Rav Weinberg speak at the Agudah in Baltimore telling people to avoid living Bkeri with Gd lest they be subject to Keri. He was speaking about avoiding shady business practices. He must have believed the higher judgment to be within the reach of most people if they’d just straighten out.

          I call that mussar. It’s not certain that he meant it as a hashkafic statement.

          he pointed to Hashgacha that most people can see when they meet their spouses.

          It’s great to feel that hashgacha. Does it have any bearing on tragedy and every other part of your life when you DON’T feel that hashgacha? In other words, feeling is not relevant to substantive discussion.

          Rav Weinberg gave weather as an example if I recall correctly.

          I think what you mean here is that the weather is not “set” so changing the weather is not a nes nigleh. This may be true today. I think the reason the weather is unpredictable is because there are too many factors to consider. So if we had enough information it would be predictable. There is very little in nature that is random. If we think it is random it is likely because of a lack of information.

          With Keri Gd won’t prevent the murder. Without Keri, but direct Din, Gd will prevent the murder if He wants to.

          Ooooh! Of course. But I assume we are in a b’kerri status.

          He said ALL evil is the result of human choices

          Yes. Of course. Without sin, nothing bad could happen to us. There would be no evil in the world. That’s obvious. But it is not reality. There is sin and there is evil.

          • http://twitter.com/MordechaiD MordechaiD

            I call that mussar. It’s not certain that he meant it as a hashkafic statement

            If he didn’t believe it to be true why would he find it an effective message? I don’t know how someone can give Mussar with means that they don’t find to be true in Hashkafa – especially Rav Weinberg.

            It’s great to feel that hashgacha. Does it have any bearing on tragedy and every other part of your life when you DON’T feel that hashgacha? In other words, feeling is not relevant to substantive discussion.

            His point was to show that normal people can witness the Hashgacha. Its part of normal peoples lives – that is relevant.

            I think what you mean here is that the weather is not “set” so changing the weather is not a nes nigleh. This may be true today. I think the reason the weather is unpredictable is because there are too many factors to consider. So if we had enough information it would be predictable. There is very little in nature that is random. If we think it is random it is likely because of a lack of information.

            He argued directly on your perception. He said that even though there are predictable natural occurences there is plenty of room for “chance” and that’s where the Hashgacha can operate.

            Yes. Of course. Without sin, nothing bad could happen to us. There would be no evil in the world. That’s obvious. But it is not reality.

            I’m confused. If it’s obvious why is it not reality? Do you mean we can’t detect it?

            There is sin and there is evil.

            He seemed to say that sin is what creates evil. He said the further we distance ourselves from Gd, the further we are from the source of life/good, and such distancing is destruction, evil.

            • http://finkorswim.com E. Fink

              1) A mussar shmooze can be effective as a wake up call to strive to be the best we can possibly be even if it is unlikely anyone will attain that level.

              2) I agree. One CAN witness hashgacha. But what we are discussed is theodicy. Bad things happening. Good things we can easily attribute to a Good God.

              3) Weather is an area that Chazal have classically taught us is in our hands. Earthquakes? Not so sure.

              4) It’s not reality because there is sin and there always has been sin. So a world without sin would be perfect. Mazel tov. We live in a world with sin where hashgacha is not perfect.

              5) I agree that R’ Weinberg held this to be the case. I just don’t think that we are expected to get close enough to God to merit absolute Intervention.

              • http://twitter.com/MordechaiD MordechaiD

                1) A mussar shmooze can be effective as a wake up call to strive to be the best we can possibly be even if it is unlikely anyone will attain that level.

                I hear that, but I find it hard to believe Rav Weinberg would use those techniques. As one of the Maspidim for Rav Weinberg put it “To the Rosh Yeshiva a Krumma Sevara was the equivalent of dropping a brick on his foot” It seems to me that he would not exagerrate for the purpose of inspiring others. He would let the principles speak for themselves. That’s my impression of him. Either way, I’ve supported the assertion of Hashgacha Pratis as common with other things he said. The Shmooz at the Agudah was just a supportive Maaseh Shehaya.

                2) I agree. One CAN witness hashgacha. But what we are discussed is theodicy. Bad things happening. Good things we can easily attribute to a Good God.

                Rav Weinberg made no distinction between good and bad Hashgacha happening. I don’t see why there would be a difference. It would be nice if he were here to ask him all these questions! I forwarded my comments, and yours, to 2 of his close Talmidim so maybe they’ll clarify this if they have a chance to respond to me.

                3) Weather is an area that Chazal have classically taught us is in our hands. Earthquakes? Not so sure.

                He said clearly that Earthquakes, famines, crib deaths, diseases, are the result of human choices. Obviously some of those are through some metaphysical mechanism.

                4) It’s not reality because there is sin and there always has been sin. So a world without sin would be perfect. Mazel tov. We live in a world with sin where hashgacha is not perfect.

                But it IS reality because that evil is caused by ongoing sin, or distancing from HKB”H as he put it. That’s relavent since it encourages us to move closer to HKB”H by following His will and thereby decrease the occurrences of evil and destruction.

              • http://twitter.com/MordechaiD MordechaiD

                I emailed a close Talmid and he sent me the following:

                The RY said numerous times that despite the fact that in hester panim, the default is keri, that too is 100% hashgacha-meaning we all have a personal relationship with Hashem and though He may not always step in, He always could and we have to live our lives as if He always will if we do our part and create the tefilos and zechuyos that are necessary to effect that. So, it is not just for tzadikkim. Personal hashgacha stories that we all experience are examples of this. A small example, He once told me that when you ‘happen’ to open the sefer to the right page that is a direct hashgacha message from Hashem that He loves you.

                He also sent me some notes another Talmid took from a tape at a Torah UMesorah Convention called “Seeing the Yad Hashem through Current Events”, by the Rosh Yeshiva ZTL (You can download this mp3 from chinuch.org – MD) Here’s an excerpt that I (MD) copied that’s relevant to our discussion

                What are the implications of the Atah Bechartanu? We learn a mishna in Avos but we may not fully understand it. There were 10 doros from Adam until Noach- and Noach took `schar kulam’ all of mankind is now centered through Noach. Another 10 doros- Hashem waits patiently. Who will take on the burden and responsibility for all of mankind-being the one through whom Hashem can express himself through the briah-world. Only Avraham is mekabel schar kulam. So Klal Yisroel is the vehicle through which the Hashgachah comes to mankind. There is no way a human being can know Hashem, or be lover of justice, compassionate, good , or caring unless they have had a shaychus with Klal Yisroel. If there are peoples and nations that have never had a shaychus with Klal Yisrael they are savages, barbaric, without any sense of truth or justice. This is because the whole and only method for any person to relate to G-d is through Klal Yisrael.

                So Hashem shows Himself in current events for the benefit of Klal Yisrael. Someone once asked me, how can you say that? What was relevant for the Jews in the Vietnam War? The answer is this doesn’t mean that we can always identify what the purpose is but it’s a fact. It happens to be that with Vietnam we can see it most directly. The only real result of Vietnam was how America would react to wars against Israel. It determined how they would send soldiers, spend money. America’s way of dealing with the Arabs is all as a result of the Vietnam syndrome.

                When we had a first Bais Hamikdash, we knew the Yad Hashem in a revealed, direct way. We knew why things happened the way they did. In the Second Bais Hamikdash, we no longer see the Yad Hashem revealed. We can only see it through Avodah. But we have a Yom Tov that gave us this koach. Purim seemed to be so natural and just a `current event’ but Klal Yisrael saw Haman and the Yeshuah as a Yad Hashem. So we have a Purim. We must see all events in this manner. We must change and become different in order to see salvation. The yesod of Simchas Purim is to be makir that it’s all Yad Hashem. Kavayachol is mechadesh on Purim this koach to be able to see Yad Hashem in all events. We may not know the specifics but we must know that Hashem is bringing it only because of the maasim of Klal Yisrael.

                So whenever the world and/or Klal Yisrael has a big tzara, we have to know that it is up to us to change. Every tzara has a refuah before the makkah and through our teshuva the refuah comes out and if we don’t respond properly the refuah will not come forth. This was true for all the wars and pogroms and it is true today. We must respond. If we accept that it is Yad Hashem, we already have 3/4 of the refuah done. Because then we are going to daven differently, to be zahir in mitzvos differently, to be acharai for others differently, to be mekabel a koved rosh, a different style of living, to give up on indulgences.

                This is the yesod of Jewish chinuch. The Yad Hashem responds to the avodah of Klal Yisrael. This is the Shma Yisrael Hashem Elokainu. It’s for Yisrael- Hashem shows His Hashgacha for us-He’s ElokaiNU. We need to do and He will respond.

                • http://twitter.com/MordechaiD MordechaiD

                  By the way, the quote above from the Torah Mesorah convention is actually available online HERE #15a-15e

                  I received the following from another close Talmid of Rav Weinberg, Rabbi Mordechai Weiskopf (who was kind enough to share his name) – quite a comprehensive review of Rav Weinberg’s position on Hashgacha. He also addresses a few of the points we made in our correspondence directly.

                  R’ Mordechai -
                  I quickly glanced through the dialogue you sent me, and herewith give a brief synopsis of my understanding of Rav Weinberg’s ז”ל positions on the issues at hand. Needless to say, I am not commenting on the specifics of a particular earthquake, let alone of a particular murder; I am listing the fundamentals of the position as a whole:

                  In short, the answer to why a particular thing happened is that Kaveyachol decided that it should, based on a very large number of factors. [Rav Weinberg generally used the term "Kaveyachol" for G-d.] Let me explain:

                  1. Teva and nes are two different things. Teva are the rules set in place by Kaveyachol during Sheshes Yemei Bereishis; nes is a deviation from those rules. [BTW, see Magen Avraham 28:12 and Beur Halachah there - MW]

                  2.However, even teva does not happen on its own; it is actively meted out by Kaveyachol (this is the meaning of the Ramban at the end of P. Bo). Indeed, Kaveyachol is mechadesh betuvo bechol yom tamid maaseh bereishis. So, for example, when a leaf falls off a tree, it is not “really” falling; it essentially being recreated at every instant of its falling! That is, Kaveyachol is recreating it at each instant- at a particular place, with a particular apparent rate and angle of descent, etc. But he usually decides these elements of its existence based on the laws of teva, i.e., what would have happened had there been a self-sustaining universe in which things “really” fell. But he sometimes chooses, for whatever reason, to recreate things differently – that is a nes. So everything is a result of a decision by Kaveyachol.

                  3. Now, there needs to be a justification – such a zechus – for a nes to occur (i.e. to depart from teva). How much of a justification there needs to be depends on many, many factors. The openness of the miracle is only one of the factors. To mention just one other, if one is in a situation where there is a 99% chance of something occurring, it may not be an “open” miracle if that something does not occur (i.e if the 1% happens). But it nonetheless requires a greater justification for it not to occur than there is for something else that has a 70% chance of happening. Simply put, “odds” are a very important factor. [Although neither might technically be termed a miracle, it does not matter for our purposes, as we shall see.]

                  4. A zechus is, of course, not only a mitzvah that a person did. It includes zechus avos, the person’s position in society, the effect on the tzibbur, what the person will do in the future, who his children will be, etc. etc.

                  5. More broadly, there are a large number of factors that Kaveyachol takes into account when determining what to do. The nature of which chukei hateva are involved is only one set of factors. There is a whole set countervailing factors. For example, the number of people affected, whether the people affected are Jewish and/or tzaddikim, the indirect impact on Jews and/or tzaddikim. Basically, the rule is that the closer one is to Kaveyachol, the more He cares for that person, and the more the decision will be made on the behalf of that person. This issue is key – Kaveyachol takes different people into account to differing extents, depending on how close that person is to Kaveyachol. Accordingly, when we deal with the question of whether there is Hashgachah Pratis for Gentiles, or for inanimate objects, or similar questions, we must define our terms: If we mean, “Does Kaveyachol decide what happens to everything?” the answer is yes. If we mean, “Was it decided for the sake of that person or that being?” the answer is that it depends – sometimes yes and sometimes no, depending on an infinite number of factors. In general, again, the closer one is to G-d, the more the decision is made for his sake. But even a Jew does not always have decisions made for his sake, ואין שוקלין אלא בדעתו של קל תמים דעות

                  6. This applies not only to a nes that breaks teva. Even in the case mentioned above with 70-30 odds, the closer one is to Kaveyachol, the more likely it is that Kaveyachol will arrange things for him. So if one wins a lottery depends both on the odds of winning and on his zechuyos. If the odds are very much against him, he requires more zechuyos to win than if the odds are not so strongly against him.

                  7. When things are done because that is what teva would have done, yes, that is keri. But it is important to realize that it is not true that a person is either in a situation of keri or a situation of non-keri. A person can be a situation of keri for one thing (i.e., he does not have zechuyos to overcome those chukei hateva) and a situation of non-keri for something else (where he does). The difference may be due to the relative strength of the chukei hateva involved, or they may be due to the type of zechuyos that he has, or, most likely, both. [Similarly, "nevuah, miracles, and hashgachah pratis" do not go hand in hand; each requires a different level, and perhaps type, of closeness to Kaveyachol - MW]

                  8. Now, since Kaveyachol makes billions of decisions every second, the “higher level of hashgachah pratis” is not that rare. Keri is, of course, also not that rare. But I do not recall hearing from Rav Weinberg just how common it is, or which way is the predominant one nowadays. I did hear him talk a great deal about whether Reuven could choose to kill Shimon, but I don’t have time now to detail the additional considerations that are involved in that case.

                  9. “when Reuven decides to kill Shimon, Shimon will only die if Gd has DECIDED to leave him at the mercy of another human. Otherwise Gd will save him by causing the gun to malfunction” – this is accurate. Everything is a decision of Kaveyachol. But it is also true that the decision might be based on the fact that Kaveyachol “does not care” that much about Shimon, and thus He makes things happen as they would if there would be no hashgachah, which leads to the practical equivalent of there not being Hashgachah. This is what we call Keri – Kaveyachol operating as if He did not exist. [Thinking about it now, it is possible that the word keri is applied only to this situation, where the punishment is inflicted by humans. But I don't think so. - MW] As far as the blogger’s comment that “I have heard from talmidim of R’ Weinberg that he held this NOT TO BE THE CASE. He held that we are all subject to the bechira of others.” – this is a bit complicated, but Rav Weinberg’s point was that although it would take a very big zechus for Kaveyachol to take away Reuven’s bechirah, it would not take as much of a zechus for Kaveyachol to thwart Reuven’s plot by making the gun malfunction. And perhaps almost all people are today are not zoche to have others bechira taken away for them, but you cannot say “all”. More to the point, you certainly cannot say that all people are not zoche to protection by having the gun malfunction.

                  10. Finally, Rav Weinberg maintained that there is plenty in nature that is non-deterministic. [I think he gave weather as a particular example because Kaveyachol keeps the mafteach to geshamim, but I am not sure about this, particularly because the mafteach is for Eretz Yisrael. In any case, we daven about the weather three times a day; evidently, the halachah does not deem it impossible for humans to affect the weather due to a gezeirah of keri. Moreover, it must not even be deemed a nes to vary the weather, as it is forbidden to daven for a nes. Aside from weather, it is my impression that most things are as indeterminate on a quantum level. I don't know about earthquakes one the predictive factors have reached a certain point. - MW]

                  All of the above is my understanding, and may be mistaken. I hope I am not misquoting the Rosh Yeshiva z”l, and I further hope that I make myself sufficiently clear despite the brevity. I realize that the position outlined here is complex, but, well, darkei haHashgachah are not simplistic.
                  Feel free to post this with or without my name; I myself do not have ready access to the blogosphere.
                  Kol Tuv – Mordechai Weiskopf

                  P.S. The notion that catastrophic events even to Gentiles hold a message for us is not new. the Chafetz Chaim writes it in a letter, and I think the Ran says it in a drashah.

  • Kuppel Lindow

    It’s almost two years after this disaster and another disaster has occurred on the East Coast, namely Hurricane Sandy. I think Sandy occurred because Hashem wants to punish New York City since they made it illegal to purchase more than 16oz of soda at a time.