Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Maharal on Earthquakes

In the wake of a 5.9 Earthquake that hit the geopolitical and economic epicenter that is the Suez Canal, now New Zealand has been hit by devastating and fatal earthquake in urban areas.

UPDATE: According to Chabad.org, the earthquake in New Zealand has toppled the city's central Chabad center. The center's director, Rabbi Shmuel Friedman, reported that they were inside the building when the quake hit, but that everyone ran out as it was falling down, and B"H everyone is okay!

Yesterday I posted some comments on the meaning of earthquakes. Today I want to add one more source: The Maharal teaches that earthquakes are a wake-up sign for the world, a sign that Hashem is about to intervene, in a big and revealed way.

The Slonimer Rebbe adopts the view of Maharal and the Maggid of Kozhnitz in Kuntres Ha-Harugoh Alecha in his masterpiece, Netivot Shalom. The following is taken from Rav Tamir Granot's lecture on Netivot Shalom on Suffering and Evil from Yeshivat Har Etzion's lecture series on Faith and the Holocaust:

First, I introduce the words of the holy Maggid of Kozhenitz in his glosses to Maharal of Prague's Be'er Ha-Golah (fourth be'er):   

Regarding his [Maharal's] question about the statement in Perek Ha-Ro'eh, When the Holy One, blessed be He, recalls that His children are suffering among the nations, He weeps two tears into the Great Sea and the noise they make is heard…and this is an earthquake

This makes sense [asks Maharal] after the destruction [of the Temple], but earthquakes existed always, even before the destruction.   

I will explain: Ever since the six days of creation, there is nothing new before Him.  Before creation He looked ahead to the end of history in His world and arranged every incident that will happen on earth according to a timetable, as the Sages interpreted the verse: 

והארץ היתה תוהו ובהו וחשך על פני תהום ורוח אלוהים מרחפת על פני המים

And the earth was tohu va'vohu (in chaos and disorder) and darkness upon the depths and the spirit of God hovered upon the water

as alluding to the four exiles and the rucho shel mashiach (the ru'ach = spirit, soul, breeze of the Mashiach) [Yalkut Shim'oni, Bereshit, No.4].  (In other words, the second verse of Genesis foresees the history of the Jewish people over the next 6000 years: the Egyptian exile,  the Persian exile, the Babylonian exile, and the exile of Edom - the longest, most drawn-out, most challenging, in which we are currently holding on, which will be followed by rucho shel mashiach - not (just) the blog, but the Mashiach, b'chvodo uv'atzmo, and may it be so with no delay)

The Holy One, blessed be He, also created another system within the system of natural order, like a wheel within a wheel, powered by the will of the Jewish People. When they choose to obey Hashem and fulfill His Torah and His mitzvot, the system is affected by their service and the timetable is altered...'There is a time for every thing…a time to cast stones' – when Hadrian arose…to smash the stones of the Temple – 'and a time to gather in stones' – when it will be rebuilt by the Holy One, blessed be He [Devarim Rabba 3:13 citing Kohelet 3:5].  

From all this, we learn that the Creator has a timetable for history from the six days of creation until the end of the world and its people, yet He structured it to be affected by human choices.  For example, if Adam Ha-rishon had withstood his test and had not eaten form the forbidden tree, then all the worlds would have attained their perfection and we would not have required all the exiles and all the sufferings that make up out past…  But since that did not happen, the timetable remained in effect and all that has transpired followed.

See the rest of his discussion there about this lofty matter, for it explains many deliberately hidden statements of Chazal.  This is the approach to understanding their statement regarding the ten [righteous sages] martyred by the [Roman] kingdom that the Holy One, blessed be He, said, [from the liturgical poem Eileh ezkeroh in the Mussaf of Yom Kippur]:  "That is My original intent.  If you don't accept My penalty, I will return the world to chaos."  For the entire tragedy of the ten martyrs was set in the timetable established at creation; it is one of the secrets of creation, without which the world could not exist and would therefore return to chaos.  (Netivot Shalom,
Kuntres Ha-Harugoh Alecha pp. 27-29)

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