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Divine Noise

Thursday, 31 July 2008

Do you remember that line from Fiddler on the Roof?

“Rabbi, is there a blessing for the Tsar?”

“May God bless and keep the Tsar…far away from us!”

The point of that line was to teach us that yes, there is a blessing for everything. Even for an earthquake.

To be really honest, it wasn’t the official prayer that I said at 11:42 a.m. this Tuesday past. The only prayer that came to mind was the Sh’ma – which is traditionally recited at the time of death and before going to sleep. Can’t quite recall if I actually thought it was “The Big One,” but I figured it was better to cover my bases.

So yes, there is a prayer for everything and this is the prayer to recite after having experienced an earthquake:

Baruch Ata Adonai,Eloheinu Melech haolam oseh ma’aseh v’reisheet.
Praised are You, O God, Sovereign of the Universe, who makes the works of Creation.

Good going, God. Thanks for creating our entire world. And for making it shake beneath our very feet. And for knocking things off the walls.

I don’t know why this was the prayer chosen for an earthquake. If I was in charge of the Prayer Assignment Committee (not a real committee, BTW), I would have selected this blessing:

Baruch Ata Adonai Eloheinu Melech haolam, shekocho u’g’vurato malei olam.Praised are You, O God, Sovereign of the Universe, whose Power and Might pervade the world.

The sensation of a temblor is very unsettling. We continue to live as though we stand on terra firma . When we feel the ground roll and see buildings and trees sway, we are suddenly left with the impression that there is indeed a Force more powerful and unpredictable than anything we can create.

Perhaps the rabbis, in their infinite wisdom, meant for us to understand that as frightening as an earthquake can be, it is not a purposeful display of God’s might. Rather, it is part and parcel of living with the tectonic features of our planet and the seismic movement should therefore be celebrated as one of the works of Creation.

Biblical term for earthquake?

Ra’ash Adonai. The noise of God.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. Friday, 1 August 2008 1:05 am

    I also forgot about brachot. I was just wondering — ACK, do I grab my kids and shove them under a doorframe, or WHAT?

    And then it ended, and I looked at my kids, and they were all watching PBS. They hadn’t even noticed the quake. Total cluelessness. During Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood, no less. Go figure.


  2. Friday, 1 August 2008 11:35 am

    I’m just glad you’re all safe!

  3. Friday, 1 August 2008 11:59 am

    maybe the Bracha Assignment Committe had never lived through an actual earthquake, just heard about it in Tanach.

    I’ve never felt a real earthquake. Once a tiny little tremor in San Fran, but even the one we had here in Chicago a few weeks? months? ago, I didn’t feel that.

    I like the midwest. No earthquakes, usually, no hurricanes. Just blizzards.

  4. Friday, 1 August 2008 12:30 pm

    I like the midwest. No earthquakes

    Well, I don’t know about that.

    Earthquake reported in Illinois

  5. Friday, 1 August 2008 2:46 pm

    I like your prayer better. I vote for it.

  6. Friday, 1 August 2008 3:02 pm

    I totally didn’t know what to do with Kicker for a moment. There he was, on the pediatricians table, and the nurse is freaking out. I wasn’t sure if I should get under the table with him, or open the door, and get in the doorway. I got under the table with him, because it was quicker, but I’m still not sure that was the right choice.

  7. Friday, 1 August 2008 10:39 pm

    We get so many here, my parents lived through the 1964 quake that was 9.2 and to hear them talk about it is pretty interesting.

  8. Sunday, 3 August 2008 4:40 pm

    In California you may have to put up with earthquakes sometimes, but most of the time it’s just “72 and sunny,” with a gorgeous ocean, stunning mountain ranges, lakes, skiing, the lowest desert on earth, like, five different ecosystems… worth the risk.

    That said, I’ll just add: Israel is my real home. (Actually, we have earthquakes there too, but only one every 70 years).


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