Dear G‑d, Creator and Sustainer of the universe,

I owe You profound gratitude for the miracles you performed during Katrina and for saving the lives of our family, the guests we took in and everyone in our community.

Yet, as much as I am personally thankful, there is something that's bothering me, something I just don't understand.


Why, almighty G‑d, did You ruin our beloved city?

Why did You take away over a thousand lives and devastate their families?

Why are there now parents without children and children without parents?

Why were hospitals destroyed, elderly drowned in their beds, babies dying of thirst while awaiting rescue?

Why did so many charitable New Orleanians, who used their hard-earned money to help others, lose their businesses and everything they owned?

In comparison, I feel I have no right to complain. We were blessed to have survived. Still, I feel the need to ask: Why are my children's friends and classmates scattered throughout America, rather than growing and learning together?

Why did we lose most of the furniture and appliances from our Chabad Jewish Center? Why am I discarding 212 moldy chairs that would have been used for mitzvot and to celebrate joyous occasions in our shul?

Why did I have to throw out everything on the first floor of our home?

Why do I have to explain to my two-year-old daughter, Gittel, that her favorite doll was destroyed in a flood?


Some suggest Katrina was sent because of the sins of some French Quarter residents, or because of the gambling on the Mississippi; I have even heard some express their belief that Katrina was a punishment for the State Department pushing Prime Minister Sharon to uproot our brothers and sisters from Gush Katif.

Are they pathetically clueless or are they onto something? Is there perhaps, dear G‑d, some other reason you can share with me? Please?

And then, in a moment of quiet, the teachings of my mentor and teacher, the Lubavitcher Rebbe, ring in my consciousness: "It is wrong to try to explain suffering or to excuse G‑d for it, because then we would justify it somewhat. Rather, our role is to help alleviate suffering."

This truth is simultaneously painful and comforting. While we believe there is a "vast eternal plan" we should not attempt to understand the cause for the suffering of others. If we understood, it might become somewhat acceptable. Instead, we must become a partner with our Creator, using our energy and ability to help rather than blame or explain.

While faced with such profound issues of faith and belief, I must also deal with the practical. As I begin to search through the classified section of the New Orleans Time Picayune for a contractor, the following ad grabs my attention:

Help Needed: Looking to partner with a few good women and men to bring hope, healing and kindness back to New Orleans. Reward guaranteed as My firm has unlimited resources. Great benefits including meaningful life. Interviews conducted within any heart full of faith. (Signed: G‑d Almighty, Creator of the universe and flooder of New Orleans.)

I speak with my wife, Chani, and we immediately commit ourselves to:

  • Increase acts of goodness and kindness to all of G‑d’s children in New Orleans.

  • Work with all existing Jewish agencies to benefit and rebuild the New Orleans Jewish community.

  • Go from strength to strength in our work with the help of all the men and women of Chabad. We will not only continue with what we have, overcoming the challenge of an initially much smaller Jewish population, but as the Rebbe teaches, "we can turn pain into growth and tears into action" and through new initiatives we will actually expand our educational and social services.

  • Renewed with a new sense of purpose and mission, we begin what we know will be a difficult yet fulfilling time. We are looking forward to building a new New Orleans, filled with healing and wholesomeness, a New Orleans that will serve as an example to the entire nation.

    But first, before anything else, we start with something small: we're going to Wal-Mart to buy a new doll for Gittel.