First there is a rumbling.Then things begin to shake.Within a few minutes it is all over, but the damage has been done. Large buildings may collapse. Bridges tumble down. Mountains change shape, and rivers take a new course.Thousands of people may be killed in an instant. When the earth shakes,we all tremble.


The surface of the earth is really a shell made of thick slabs of rock called plates.

These plates are always moving, ever so slightly, pushing up against one another, sliding or grinding against each other.

But sometimes the movement is sudden and violent. Huge layers of rock suddenly shift or break. The ground heaves up and down, as enormous slabs of stone move forward and backward amidst a thunderous roar. An earthquake is taking place.

Earthquakes cause terrible destruction as roads, bridges, and buildings collapse.
Like waves around a stone that falls in still water
Green lines trace the earth’s ‘faults’ — where huge plates meet.
A huge Tsunami tidal wave is about to crash
down on this shorefront


The Pacific Belt is where the plates carrying the Pacific Ocean come in contact with the plates carrying the land masses around it.The Pacific Belt runs from Alaska down the west coast of North America and South America. It also extends west to include
Japan and other Pacific Islands.

The Mediterranean Belt runs west to east from Spain and North Africa, through Turkey.


When an earthquake occurs, tremendous energy is released in all directions, like waves spreading out
around a stone that is thrown into a pond.These vibrations are called seismic

When seismic waves ripple across the surface of the earth they cause tremendous damage. A
powerful earthquake is a
horror. Buildings collapse, often with many people in them. Gaping holes and cracks open up in the
ground. In seconds, the
whole world is gone.


After an earthquake there is still danger. Buildings that did not fall are weakened and may still collapse. There may still be great tension underground, and "aftershocks” may still occur.

In most cases, the first earthquake will be the strongest, and the aftershocks decrease with each passing day.


Inside the earth, the temperature is about 1800 degrees. As the earth heats
up and cools off, it expands and shrinks.

This causes the earth to twist, so that energy builds up in the rock surface like in a coiled spring.Then suddenly, the rock breaks apart, lurching forward or backwards at the weak point where plates meet.

This weak point is called a fault. A fault is really a crack in the earth’s crust.

Sometimes faults are visible, like the great San Andreas Fault which runs across more than 700 miles of California, and then plunges into the ocean. About 10,000 minor earthquakes occur along this fault every year.


When an earthquake occurs underwater, it causes huge seismic waves, called Tsunami, which travel at more than 500 miles an hour, and can be up to 100 feet high!

Ships caught in their path are ripped apart and hurled ashore.

When Tsunami reach the land, they come crashing down on coastal cities destroying everything in their path. When a Tsunami struck Thailand in 2005, hundreds of thousands of people were killed.


A seismograph is a sensitive instrument that measures the seismic waves of an earthquake. The seismograph is anchored to the ground.When the earth moves during an earthquake, a drum in the seismograph shakes. A pen that is fixed in place makes a graph on this drum, showing how strong the earthquake was, when it started, and how long it lasted.The Richter scale is a way of measuring and comparing the strength of earthquakes. A minor earthquake may be as little as minus 2 on the Richter scale. A major earthquake may be between 8 and 9 on the scale.


“The earth quaked and roared.The foundations of the mountains shook. They trembled when His wrath flared.” (Psalms 18:8)

When Hashem reveals His might through earthquakes, shooting stars, thunder, and the like,we say the blessing,“Blessed be He Whose strength and might fill the world.”

The Torah teaches us that natural events are not just coincidences.Violent tremors in the earth come as a warning that we must improve our deeds.

If buildings collapse because of an earthquake, the Talmud says we should fast and seek to improve our ways. (Taanis 20b)

In the Book of Psalms, King David writes that when G‑d is displeased with our behavior, He merely has to look at the earth, it will begin to shake and tremble (Psalm 102:32).

On the other hand, Rabbi Chiya was so righteous that in his time there were no earthquakes at all in the Land of Israel. (Chulin 86b)

When G‑d “Feels Grief”

The Talmud explains that the roar of an earthquake is caused when Hashem thinks of the Jewish people suffering in Exile amongst the gentiles.Two great tears well up in His eyes and fall into the Great Sea.The roar may be heard from one end of the world to the other.

Rav Katina says, the roar of an earthquake is a result of G‑d smacking His hands together with grief. Rav Nosan says it is from His sigh. (Brochos 59b)

The Medrash states that when G‑d looks down and sees people having a jolly time, going to theaters and sports stadiums; and then He sees the Holy Temple in ruins, and His children Israel suffering in Exile, He feels so “upset” that He shakes the firmament.

We pray every day that the Almighty should speedily redeem His people from Exile, and put an end at last to their suffering, with the coming of Moshiach Now!