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Friday, 8 September, 2017 - 4:41 pm

First it was Hurricane Harvey and the terrible flooding, now Hurricane Irma, the largest hurricane ever recorded in the Atlantic ocean, closely followed Hurricane Jose.

Why is this happening?

It doesn’t really matter.  

“Why?” is a fruitless question.

What matters is how we should respond.

In the book of Psalms, King David laments “My G-d, my G-d, why have you forsaken me?”

Rabbi Samson Raphael Hersh points out that the Hebrew word used for “why” is “Lamah”. However, the accent, in this case, is on the second syllable not the first. It is not LAmah but laMAH.  LAmah means “why”, but laMAH means “for what”. 

“Why” is a useless question. It does us no good. The important question is “for what” For what did this happen? What is it meant to elicit within us, and how are we meant to respond.

While it is natural for the inquisitive mind to search for explanations and to ask “why” it is actually an unhealthy reaction to challenges or disappointments and suffering.   

The question “why” implies that this shouldn’t have happened, it’s not fair and I deserve better (which is why it demands an explanation). While that may be true, the question itself fosters a mentality of hopelessness, victimhood and passiveness.

When you ask “for what?” You are in control. You are focusing on what YOU CAN DO . When you ask “why?” you are focusing on what happens TO YOU, which is out is out of your control.

Successful people respond to failure by asking “for what” not “why” They focus on finding ways to move forward and grow from the failure or challenge.

So the real question today is “for what?”.  What do these Hurricanes and the resulting devastation demand from me? How can I grow from these terrible challenges?

Each individual must answer this question in their own way depending on their circumstance, however below I share some of my personal thoughts and answers.

           “For what?” To be in touch with our loved ones more often.

            Unfortunately, I’m not very good at keeping in touch with my parents, I should call them more often. However, this past week has changed that. I’ve been calling my parents, who live in Hallandale, every couple of hours to check in, and I look forward to continuing this habit after the storm has passed. (Okay, maybe not every couple of hours but definitely a few times a week)

         “For what?”  To remind us of our vulnerabilities.

        With all our technological advances we have become smug. We no longer need G-d and we no longer need others. Harvey taught us otherwise. After all is said and done, we are still small and powerless and rely on Hashem’s protection and blessings and the help and support of those around us.

      “For what?”  To restore our faith in humanity and America.

         We live in a great country built upon principles of righteousness, kindnes and goodness. Recent events though, have caused many to lose faith in America. Seeing the pictures of hundreds of people waiting in line to volunteer to help Harvey victims and witnessing the outpouring of support and concern from all races, nationalities and religions, should restore our faith in this great country and its future.  True, not all is rosy and we have a lot of work to do, however Harvey has reminded us of what makes this country so great.

"For what” How do you answer this question? Share your answers here

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Benjy Silverman 

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