Hurricane Sandy: The Storm that United A Divided Nation

October 30, 2012 9:35 am 6 comments

Hurricane Sandy.

I’m sitting here with my kids on Monday night and, aside from the glow of the laptop, the Sabbath has come early this week. Outside Hurricane Sandy is pounding our New Jersey town of Englewood. Earlier in the day we saw trees bend like twigs and wind gusts tearing pieces of our roof clear off. This evening we said Psalms for all the people of the Northeastern United States to be safe and studied the Biblical portion of the day, appropriately, Abraham arguing with G-d to protect the inhabitants of his area condemned to destruction through the elements.

Just yesterday I was fully engaged in my campaign for the United States Congress. Winning, elections, and victory were on my mind. Boy, what a difference a day can make. Today, I just want my family and the 50 million people in the storm’s path to be safe. We just read of a man of 30 who lost his life when a tree fell on his house in Queens, NY. We read of two boys in New York State who lost their lives in similar circumstances. We’ve seen photos of people’s homes blown away. In Manhattan, a giant crane dangles and there is no telling whom it might hurt.

Does winning matter now?

As the storm approached I wondered what it all meant. I am a religious man and believe all to be providence. There are no coincidences. A freak storm, hitting New Jersey of all places, in late October, is so rare as to seriously raise eyebrows. And just a week before such momentous elections that will determine the future of our nation and who will be our President?

I cannot divine the mind of God and we would obviously all have been much better off without this storm. And while, by far, the most important thing is for everyone to be safe, and for the families of those who lost loved ones to be comforted, the storm’s arrival does suddenly put everything in perspective.

For the past few months America has been bitterly consumed by an election that has torn the country asunder. To an extent it’s understandable. While the tone has been at times quite negative, the stakes in this election are very high and the consequences for whichever visions wins very great. It’s understandable that passions are so intense.

Yet, along comes Frankenstorm, just days before the election, and knocks everything about the election clear off TV, newspapers, and the internet. Just try to find a candidate anywhere campaigning. President Obama and Governor Romney have both suspended their campaigns. Our own efforts here in New Jersey are focused on how we can help those who have most suffered in the storm. The only thing that matters now is people’s safety and wellbeing. Suddenly there is no talk of Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives, tax cuts and entitlements. There are no attack ads and there are no advocacy ads. All the talk is about protecting life, keeping people safe, and being there for each other.

In my book that’s coming out next month, The Fed-Up Man of Faith: Challenging
God in the Face of Tragedy and Suffering,
I reject any belief that suffering is redemptive. I will not dignify human agony with according it some higher purpose. All suffering is awful and any good that comes by its means could be achieved far more effectively through something positive. Better there be no storms, better there be no danger. But to the extent this awful thing is here, perhaps God, in His providence, is telling us that unity is what life is all about and we’re just too darn divided.

Yes, I would prefer that we come together in the wake of something positive than negative. We don’t need hurricanes, we don’t need 9/11’s, we don’t need the murder of American Ambassadors in Benghazi to remind us that we’re one nation, one people, with one heart. Much better to unite around a man walking on the moon, a space shuttle lifting off, and Americans winning gold medals at the Olympics. Better to unite around inspirational stories of diseases being cured, people in danger being rescued, children who are hungry being fed. But to the extent that our country is way too divided, let’s internalize the message, just before one of the most partisan elections of all time, that there is nothing in life as special as unity, nothing more beloved by God than oneness among His children, nothing more inspirational that differences being put aside as humanity unites to protect life.

Barack Obama rose to national prominence when he gave a speech about there not being red states and blue states but United States. George W. Bush brought a nation together in the wake of 9/11 when he said that the people who hurt our innocents would soon hear from us as a unified people. Mitt Romney brought America together through the pride of the Salt Lake City winter games.

We are capable of being positive and unified, even while we contest some of the great political issues of our day. We can be one people while we entertain very different opinions. And we can have one heart even when we have different minds.

May God watch over America always and may those who have suffered in Hurricane Sandy find comfort and blessing.

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach is the Republican Candidate for Congress in New Jersey’s Ninth Congressional District. The international best-selling author of 28 books, his newest work is “Kosher Jesus”. Next month he will publish “The Fed-Up Man of Faith: Challenging God in the Face of Tragedy and Suffering.” Follow him on Twitter @Rabbishmuley. His website is www.shmuleyforcongress.com.

6 Comments

  • Robert Dinerstein

    Have you seen this reported in the media?

    More Aid for the USA from Israel:

    New York, NY — November 4, 2012 … Israel Flying Aid, the Israeli global humanitarian organization, which was first to land in Haiti following the 2010 earthquake, has been distributing large supplies of gas to hospitals, food, batteries and generators to Hurricane Sandy victims.

    “We have many years of disaster relief experience,” said Israel Flying Aid North American Operations Manager Moti Kahana. “Israel Flying Aid, in having Israelis on the ground here in New York and New Jersey, have made Israel the only foreign nation to provide humanitarian assistance to the US during this disaster. We are working in coordination with FEMA, local police, the American Red Cross and Jewish communities in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.”

    Kahana said that most of the efforts had been donated by Israelis living in the US, and this enabled gas to be distributed to hospitals in New York and New Jersey.

    Joel Leyden, an Israel Flying Aid Operations Specialist who was with the IFA in Haiti, has been working with the Greater Hartford Jewish Community to distribute both food and generators on Long Island.

    “We had a convoy of food and generators move out of the Greater Hartford area early yesterday morning,” said Leyden. “The food had been donated by Panera Bread and Dunkin Donuts in the Hartford, Manchester Connecticut area. This food was distributed to hurricane victims on the south shore of Long Island, the Nassau County Police, the Free-port Fire Department and the Red Cross Shelter which is set up at Nassau Community College.”
    Leyden said that when they spotted hundreds of people lined up at gas stations to pour gas into their containers, they would get out of their cars and feed these people as they waited. The donuts and bread created smiles and positive moods which replaced the trauma of suffering in the dark and cold, he said.

    “We are so very proud to see you, to welcome you to New York,” said Dr. Jason Mallin, who normally practices neurology at North Shore University Hospital but was now volunteering with the Nassau County Department of Health. “We read about Israel and the great work you did in Haiti. We have thousands here that need you. It’s awesome that you are here!”

    Michael Duarte, a Red Cross volunteer from California who was supervising the Long Island shelter, hugged the Israel Flying Aid team as they arrived.

    “We had some bad press as a result of misunderstandings,” said Duarte. People in Staten Island, New York were looking for us but due to a New York State law, we could not start operations until after three days. We are now operating at full capacity throughout New York City and this Red Cross shelter at Nassau Community College with over 900 clients. These people have lost their homes. Lost everything. We are here for them and so very pleased to receive your good help.”

    Duarte, who hadn’t slept in three days, had coordinated a first class shelter and his staff could not have been more professional. Sleeping cots, Red Cross blankets, a cafeteria and even a play area for children had been carefully put into place. The fresh food from Israel Flying Aid was served as dinner that evening.

    Super storm Hurricane Sandy, which was also referred to as Frankenstorm as it became one huge storm from three separate systems, slammed New York, New Jersey and the southern Connecticut shore with 100 mph winds. The devastation was historic as over 100 people perished, thousands of homes were destroyed and millions were left without electricity.

    “As Israelis, we know how to react to such disasters,” said Kahana. “We are trained in the military to be prepared and ready at a moment’s notice. This edge is what enables us to go places where others don’t and get the job done with little or no bureaucracy. We are proud to help the New York, New Jersey and Connecticut communities, people who have provided assistance to Israel throughout the years. What we critically need now is donations for our staff and volunteers to continue their life saving efforts as temperatures drop and people critically need generators and fuel for heat.”

    Israel Flying Aid, which is a non-profit, non-governmental organization that assists global communities after earthquakes and other natural and man made disasters, have saved lives in Japan, Haiti, Iraq, Turkey, South Sudan and the US after Hurricane Katrina.

  • summerastephen

    PRAISE THE LORD MAY GOD BLESS YOU AND AMERICAN NATION LOVE YOU IN THE NAME OF JESUS.THANKS TO SHARE

  • Unfortunately, Obama is using the storm to campaign. Maybe not directly, but the liberal mainstream media is doing it for him.

    How disgusting to campaign during devastation.

  • Dear Rabbi,
    2 points to make;
    As I too was watching the devastation from my home in Colorado and praying for those who are being tragically effected, I pulled up a video of the fires that had burned some homes in New York and the ad leading the video was that of Obama attacking the Republican party for their stance on abortion. I don’t think we are as united as you portray in this article, as much as I would like for it to be true.
    Secondly, as a man of G-d as you say, I find it disconcerting about your view of suffering, what say you about Job? G-d is divine, He is in control and He can make beauty from the ash heap of sacrifice. The United States rejects G-d and is constantly striving to diminish His existence and being a teacher, you of all people should be teaching the people that G-d will not standby and watch people reject Him and then turn around and bless them with unity! Loving G-d with all of your heart means desiring Him, taking delight in Him and esteeming Him over everything that exists, exploring His attributes and applying His precepts in our lives. It appears that you do not accept Jesus Christ as the Messiah who taught that we should count it all joy when we suffer because it is the suffering that tests our faith and produces perseverance and perseverance produces maturity so that we lack nothing. I implore you to think this through and I pray that the G-d of your forefathers would reveal truth to you and that He will bless your campaign to be a leader in this nation so that your influence may turn the hearts of the people back to G-d who can heal them and unite them in ways they cannot even fathom! G-d bless you Rabbi!

    • Bravo to both, great read , being a Christian and believer in Jesus , Yeshua , I appreciate that truth in the Bob Wyatts response. but thank you both for the time to share what you did.

      • I agree with Teri’s comment. Bob Wyatt boldly spoke The TRUTH in LOVE. He sets a great example for all of us! Without love, it is all for naught.

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