What's going on? First we had an earthquake that shook much of the East Coast, and now we have a hurricane coming our way. Earthquakes belong in the Pacific, and hurricanes belong in the Caribbean! Is this the beginning of the apocalypse?
Yes, there is indeed a great mystery hidden here. I am not sure if I can reveal it just yet. But in the next few days some earth-shattering events are going to unfold. And maybe then I will be able to finally tell the world what it all means.
Just kidding! I like to play prophet once in a while, but in truth, although I am a rabbi, when it comes to knowing the future, or understanding some hidden message, I am just like you: observing and trying to find a meaning to it all. We live in a world where things happen — to us as individuals and as part of humanity — and we simply do not always know what they mean, or why G‑d decided that they should happen.
Do these events carry a message? Most certainly. Can we interpret this message with absolute confidence? Not really. We can, however, learn many important lessons.
Did you know that there are special blessings to recite when one experiences an earthquake or an extraordinarily strong storm? (You can read about them in Is there a blessing or Jewish prayer for earthquakes?) When we Jews are present when G‑d chooses to display His might through nature, one of the blessings we say is, “Blessed are You, L‑rd our G‑d, King of the universe, whose power and might fills the world.”
Even when these displays of majesty bring tragedy in their wake, we recognize that there is a divine hand orchestrating all that happens. Nothing happens by accident. The shifting of continental plates or the formation of tropical storms are all part of G‑d’s great plan. These events serve to bring into focus how small we are in comparison to the Creator-of-All.
What is there to do now? We can be thankful for our lives, and pray for those who may still be in harm’s way. In addition, doing additional mitzvahs is a surefire way to bring protection to those in need.
These events do not need to bring us to thoughts of the end of the world. Rather they should lead us to understand that, in the final analysis, everything in the world is orchestrated by G‑d, the source of absolute goodness.