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Reflection

>Reflections on the Japanese Earthquake and Tsunami

>Watching the images on the television over the last few days, it has, at times, felt like I was watching a film. What was happening was so hard to comprehend that I imagined it was the creation of a Hollywood special effects department, rather than the awesome force of nature in full flow.

A natural disaster like this happens, and we cannot help but remember how limited our power on this planet really is. We may have split the atom, sent people to the moon and cloned animals, but nature has a way of reminding us of how limited our power really is. There was something especially surreal about watching a nuclear power station, which despite the positive uses of the technology is also a reminder of man’s ultimate destructive weapon, being destroyed by a natural disaster. Nature was reminding us of our place on this planet.

When we witnessed the Indonesian Tsunami of 2003/4 I could not help but think about the words of Psalm 93:3-5, which we recite in our Shabbat liturgy:

‘Almighty, the floods may storm, the floods may storm aloud, the floods may storm and thunder. But even above the roar of great waves, mighty breakers of the ocean, supreme is the might of the Creator. The proofs You give are very sure, holiness is the mark of Your house, God, as long as time endures’ (translation from Forms of Prayer 2008).

The Psalm acknowledges the potentially awesome destructive power of water, with the tsunami possibly the ultimate example of the floods storming and thundering. However, it also offers us a glimmer of hope because God is supreme above the great waves and all of the power which the oceans possess. The challenge for us is where to see the proofs which God gives in the aftermath of such an enormous natural disaster.

Why did God create a world in which tsunamis were possible? Why must people suffer at the hands of nature’s power? Why must there be natural disasters in our world?

It is impossible for us to provide any answer which will satisfy the magnitude of these questions. But we must also acknowledge that God created each one of us in God’s own image, possessing a divine spark. The way in which we respond to tragedy is the way in which we see the proof of God. Our actions now, to help those whose lives have been shattered by this tragedy, are the way in which God’s presence in the world endures.

In the days after a natural disaster we must prick up our ears to hear the still small voice of God; it may be hard to perceive it, but the still small voice is out there. Through our actions hopefully we can find a way to amplify it so that all might hear it.

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