2010-09-03 / Columnists

Point of View

THOUGHTS ON THE ANNIVERSARY OF THE NEW ORLEANS DISASTER
“The Rabbi’s Personal Column” Rabbi Allan Blaine Temple Beth-El, Rockaway Park

The story is told of an imminent flood. People are told to evacuate. One homeowner stubbornly said, “I put my trust in the Lord who will save me.” As the waters rose the Fire Department came to ask him to leave. He refused saying “I put my trust in the Lord.” As the waters rose perilously higher the Red Cross came by boat to rescue him. He refused. Finally as he stood on the top of his house the Coast Guard came with a helicopter. He was adamant, “I put my trust in the Lord.” He drowned and went to heaven before the tribunal on high and complained to God, “I put my trust in you. Why didn’t you save me?” “Not save you,” thundered God, “first I sent the Fire Department, then the Red Cross, then a helicopter…”

The anniversary of the New Orleans Disaster is not a time for humor, but rather deep sorrow and sadness. Nevertheless, there are things to learn from this catastrophe.

God sometimes gives us warnings and when God gives us a warning take it! God gave Noah’s world a warning and he took it. The day before the hurricane hit New Orleans the Mayor, Governor and President told the people to evacuate since a hurricane category 4 might be on the way. Only seventy-five percent of the people left their homes. Why was that? The problem sometimes, not always is denial, equivocation, procrastination and excuse making. This applies, as a matter of fact, to every aspect of our lives. When we are fortunate enough to be given a warning, take it and seize the moment. “Carpe Deum.”

A second thought. Live your life in a state of preparedness. New Orleans knew that living 6 feet below sea level was perilous. It was never “if”, but, when the “big one” would come with devastating force.

Are we prepared for natural disasters and for acts of terrorism, or fires which could destroy our homes? For example do we have a one month’s supply of medicines, and an evacuation plan in case of fire, a supply of water, duplicates of important documents, etc.?

It is true that sometimes God does not give us a warning of impeding disaster that we can take, as in the case of many in New Orleans where poor and sick were not in a position to evacuate. This is tragic. But to be given a warning, to be given the opportunity to choose between life or death, blessing or curse and then not to take it, that is even more tragic.

Between the two World Wars from 1920 to 1940 we were given many warnings of the aggressive intentions of Nazi Germany. We chose instead to appease and to pacify and ended up with World War II that decimated hundreds of millions and destroyed cities and cultures and a way of life. Is the White House listening and learning?

A third thought is “it can happen here.” True, we are not below sea level, but a hurricane category 4 could flood and decimate the Wall Street area, Staten Island, Coney Island and could sink the Rockaway Peninsula beneath the surface like Atlantis of old. As much as people scoff and deny, it can happen here or anywhere along the Atlantic Coastline. And this applies also to the possibility of another more devastating terrorist attack.

We should make sure that our vast technological ability and Homeland Security Agencies are harnessed and pressured to provide solutions – this is up to us! The United Nations and Moslem countries should spend less time in beating up Israel and more in making sure that what is happening in their midst with the terrible flood and disaster in Pakistan is alleviated.

The mantra of the High Holy Day Season is found in one verse in the Book of Deuteronomy, “Behold, I place before you this day life or death, blessing or curse – chose life!”

If we are fortunate enough to hear God’s warning and we are in a position to heed it we should prepare to proceed immediately to higher safer ground – this is both metaphor and fact.

May it be a peaceful, healthy and happy new year for all of us and may our nation repair quickly from the pain and the suffering which came to our unfortunate fellow citizens in New Orleans. In the words

of Jewish tradition, Chazok Chazok – May we be strong and strengthen

each other.

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This monthly column continues with thanks to an anonymous donor.

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