If you’ve ever visited Houston, TX, you couldn’t help but notice what a great city it is, in size and grandeur. Even its airport displays its importance as a hub for many thousands of travelers who exchange flights there every day. Observing the footage on television of so many magnificent homes with their first floors now sunk in a lake created by the waters of Hurricane Harvey, is a humbling experience. With all the modern resources at our beck and call, nothing could stop the sheer power of such mighty waters.
As a commentator noted: “So many personal possessions – from a child’s drawing on the refrigerator door to family records – have been washed into oblivion.” I think of all the businesses – their inventories and physical plants – destroyed. Above all, there are the lives that have been lost, the families and communities that will have to struggle to rebuild their lives – the universal nature of the destruction that a flood brings.
In the Tanach – the Hebrew Bible – the book of Job discusses the question of “Why do bad things happen to good people?” It describes a righteous man – Job -who suffers tremendously, first in losing his children and subsequently in being afflicted with painful blisters from head to toe. On hearing of his situation, three of his friends come to console him.
The expression “Job’s comforters” describes the attitude of those who would like to suggest that people in distress somehow deserve it.
In glancing at some of the related news items I noticed one that suggested that the Texas floods were a kind of Divine “punishment” for the way in which people voted in the last national election. (Incidentally, this same type of attitude was and is still being used to profess that HIV is G’d’s punishment against the Gay community.)
What this tragedy calls for – beyond all the tremendous efforts of relief workers and organizations – is a sense of compassion for all the loss encountered by the people who experienced this wave of destruction. For the rest of us, who are able to go about our daily tasks, for the most part unaffected, we can only look into ourselves and our own resources and seek ways to offer whatever help we can for those who are suffering.
Living in California, we are always conscious of our own unique ways in which we can suffer at the hands of nature. For us the question isn’t “if,” it’s “when?” Knowing this, we can only open our hearts to those who are currently facing the universal horror of natural disasters. If you’re so moved, please consider donating to the JFNA, Jewish Federation of Greater Houston, American Red Cross or Nechama. All of these organizations are supporting search and rescue and providing shelter, clothing, medications and food to those who need it.