The Wenchuan Earthquake
The earthquake is named the Wenchuan earthquake. It is named after the county in which its epicenter was located. Therefore, we use for our key words: earth, quake and Wenchuan. The most common usage for earthquake in the news media is רעידת אדמה, which literally means quaking or trembling of the earth. There are also other Hebrew expressions. We will explore them later. Our protocol for our initial set of experiments requires the presence of an ELS for רעידת אדמה.
The name Wenchuan is actually a two character name as, for example, the city New York is a two word name. The first character Wen relates to water. The second character Chuan means river. For the appellations of Wenchuan we include Wenchuan as one word and Wen Chuan as two words. From the two subexperiments, the appellation Wenchuan produced the more significant result. With expected number of ELSs set to 50, the probability that a text from the ELS random placement text population would produce a table as compact as that produced by the Torah text is 27/1,000. Computing a score in our standard way in a trial by trial basis, the probability that a text from the ELS random placement population would produce a good a score as the Torah text is 53.5/1,000.
This table contains a remarkable number of other relevant ELSs. Rabbi Glazerson noticed that there is an ELS for the Hebrew month of Iyar going right through the ELSs of Earthquake. And off the to the left of the table there is in the text directly, On the second month. The second month of the year, as counted by the Torah, is the month of Iyar and the earthquake occurred on the 7th day of the month of Iyar.
We were curious about what other relevant and related words would have ELSs in this table area. So we made up a list of words 50 additional words to look for in this area. Included in this set of words were 11 words related to destruction and ruin; 12 forms of words related to collapsing; 8 words related to being buried, wounded, dying, or being killed; 2 forms for the year 5768, the Hebrew year that corresponds to the May 12 earthquake in 2008; 4 words for places, the province Sichuan, its capital Chengdu, China and in China; 6 forms for the date 7th of Iyar, 4 words for houses, buildings, school, and cities; 3 words for people and their number. The next table shows a set of 6 of the ones that appear in the table making a sentence. The severe Wenchuan earthquake: China earthquake on the second month, Iyar, (5)768, caused thousands of people to die. We note that the grammar is not quite correct for the adjective The Severe. If the definite article ה appears on the adjective קשה, it should also be on the noun ארץ and it does not. The ELS for הארץ does not appear in the table. The three letter ELS קשה appears many times in the table's area and so is not discrminatory. Therefore, we show the appearance with the definite article.
In the next table we show ELSs that form the sentence: On the second month, Iyar, (5)768, the severe Wennchuan earthquake destroyed houses, buildings, cities: destruction, ruin.
The immediate cause of the Wennchaun earthquake is the northward movement of the India tectonic plate putting tremendous pressure on the Eurasian tectonic plate. Eventually the rock can no longer sustain the ever increasing force and there is a movement that releases the force. That movement is the earthquake. This is the geologic scientific explanation.
However, if there is an earthquake, then the earthquake is not a random, chance occurrence that happens just naturally only in accordance with physical laws. The popular science in our culture thinks with a simple cause and effect Newtonian physics. But in fact, when we ask the question why is the Indian tectonic plate moving northward? Why does it have this speed etc? The Newtonian physics quickly runs out of answers. We might think that the Newtonian physics runs out of answers because not enough is known. But in the quantum physics, even if everything that could be known were known, science could not make a deterministic prediction of what would happen. Science would have to cast its language in a form,
With probability p, some event in the class of events C will happen within a time period T.
The probabilistic uncertainty in the statement is essential. No amount of knowledge or additional observations will ever be able to reduce the uncertainty. And it is within this envelope of uncertainty that one of the dimensions of the force of God openly manifests in the world. And with respect to the Wennchuan earthquake, the first cause of the earthquake is God. The last cause, and the only one that can be postulated in this instance is the movement of the tectonic plates. Indeed in spiritual terms, it is the movement of the tectonic plates that is the klippah, the shell, that hides God.
When an earthquake happens, or for that matter any natural disaster, we must understand this in three ways. The first way is that this is the hand of God bringing judgment to the world. Hashem brings judgment to the world in a time when there is an excess of sin, crime, and transgression. Those responsible for the sin, crime, and transgression are not necessarily those who are directly effected by the disaster. God's ways are not our ways and are not necessarily understandable. Sometimes judgment occurs in shifted time and in shifted places in deep ways that we will never understand. On the one hand we must maintain that God's ways are just. On the other hand we wonder why did judgment come to so many school children who died, crushed under the rubble of their collapsed school, a school built to poor construction standards? Why did judgment come to the surviving parents suffering the loss all their children. The people there are hard working and not wealthy. They are mainly a rugged minority ethnic people in a rural, and in many ways, neglected area in China. Why did it happen to them? How can this be perfect justice? We cannot answer that question.
We read in the Gemara that judgment in the form of disasters comes into the world because the Jews are not behaving in a Torah-correct way.
R. Eleazar ben Abina said:
Punishment comes into the world only on Israel's account; for it is said,
I have eliminated nations, their towers have become desolate; I have destroyed their streets without passerby; their cities have become ruins, without people, so there is no inhabitant. I said,
"Just be in awe of Me, accept chastisement, so that her Abode would not be terminated despite all that I have ordained upon her."
But [instead] they arose early and corrupted all their deeds. (Zephaniah 3:6-7.)
Just prior to these verses about punishment of the nations are the following verses of the prophet Zephaniah.
Woe to the filthy and polluted one, the City of Oppression. It did not listen to the voice [of the prophets]; it did not accept chastisement; it did not trust God; it did not draw near to its God. Its princes in its midst are roaring lions. Its judges are wolves of the evening, they do not leave a bone for the morning; its [false] prophets are impetuous, men of rebellion; its priests have desecreated the sacred; they have robbed the Torah. God, the Righteous One, is within it; He commits no corruption. Morning after morning, He brings His judgment to light, it does not fail, but the corrupt become desolate. (Zephaniah 3:1-6.)
Zephaniah is telling us first that the Jews are not behaving in a Torah-correct way. As a prophet, he speaks not only of times over two thousand years ago, but he speaks to us in our time. Perhaps in our time, this refers to the political and religious events in Israel today. And second, he is telling us that one of the consequences is that God visits punishments on the nations of the world.
In the above table, there appears ELSs for the words The Judgment, Judgments, and Death. And going through the last letter of the ELS for Wenchuan is a verse stating what God said as God passed by Moses. The part of this verse in the table says Slow to anger, full of lovingkindness and truth, exercising lovingkindness to thousands of generations, uplifting iniquity, and transgression and sin, and who cleanses.
Rashi, the famous Torah commentator, explains that long suffering means that God does not hasten to punish. Full of lovingkindness means especially to those that need goodness for they do not have many merits. And truth means that God will truly pay a good reward to those that do His will.
Rabbeinu Bachya explains that long suffering is an attribute that applies both to those who are mainly righteous as well as to those who are habitual sinners. He says that all the attributes in the verse are attributes that a proper king practices in his dealings with his people. A king must not insist on the application of absolute justice, but must temper justice with lovingkindness. (Torah Commentary by Rabbi Bachya Ben Asher, Vol 4, Eliyahu Munk translator, Jerusalem, 1998, p. 1396.)
Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch explains that long suffering means one who has patience, is forbearing and gives time for the abilities that God continuously grants to bear the intended fruits of the moral development of life,
Who gives patient consideration to the moral weaknesses -- which are just what give the possibility of moral greatness -- of those of his creatures who are called upon to give free-willed obedience. Who has pleasure in waiting and waiting until the godly freedom in Man has gained the upper hand in the fight against the temptations of the senses, and in this expection keeps up even those who are still ignoble and incomplete with His strength-giving, never ending maintaining love. (S.R. Hirsch, Isaac Levy translator, The Pentateuch, Vol II, Exodus, Judaica Press, LTD, Gateshead, 1969, p.648).
Iniquity means willfull sins. Transgression means rebellious sins done to provoke God. Sin means sins which are done carelessly, erroneously, unwittingly, or unintentionally.
The second way to understand is that the judgment that Hashem brings into the world must point by point be matched by compassionate action of those not affected by the disaster and directed toward those who are affected by the disaster. This means that we must help with the relief effort. Those of us with the expertise of rescuing people in the disaster must make ourselves available to the relief effort. The rest of us must contribute money for the tents, blankets, water, and food for those were affected by the the earthquake.
The following is part of the text in the call for donations and help by a Jewish organization Chabad in Hong Kong.
The devastation in Western China is rampant.... thousands are dead... many more are injured. We are horrified by the photos and footage. Our heart goes out for those who are suffering. Let's act!!
Danny Yaakobi, our contact person in Chengdu, and several Israeli colleagues have been feverishly working round the clock to assist everyone in need with basic essentials such as blankets, drinking water, tents and other personal needs. Many victims of the earthquake are now streaming into Chengdu from badly affected areas and are in need of help.
The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committe, a 94-year-old humanitarian aid organization that works in over 60 countries worldwide, likewise has taken action. It has opened a mailbox and is now accepting donations to provide immediate assistance and relief for the China earthquake victims.
World Vision International, a Christian organization, set a budget of $14 million to benefit the earthquake victims in the way of relief and rehabilitation.
Sadly, the largest major religious demonination in the world did nothing. Their non-compassion speaks loud and clear.
Chinese communities in virtually all the big cities in the United States mobilized to help victims of the Wenchuan earthquake. Sing Tao Daily, one of the largest Chinese-language newspapers in the U.S., set up a disaster relief fund to collect donations from its readers around the world. And of course, we must mention the extraordinary rapid efforts made by the government of China who immediately sent in rescue teams, paratroopers, and tens of thousands of Army personnel. The government response was responsible, effective, and more organized than expected. They did better with the Wenchuan earthquake disaster than the U.S. government did with its recent New Orleans disaster.
There are many other organizations helping. The American Red Cross alone has raised $9.8 million for the earthquake relief. Corporations such as Boeing made an initial contribution of $250,000 and is matching employee donations to the American Red Cross, according to the Washington, D.C.-based U.S.-China Business Council. Microsoft made an initial donation of $143,000 to the Red Cross Society of China and said its China subsidiary is contacting local response organizations to identify areas where its technology can help. And these American corporations are only examples and not the only ones.
The third way to understand is for us to look inward. What have we done that has contributed to the excess of sin, crime, and transgression in the world? Have we in any way been involved in exploiting or dominating others, making others feel bad, humiliating or shaming them, acts of petty lying, stealing, cheating, or gossip? And what can we do to improve ourselves? Will we make a resolution to bring ourselves yet closer to Hashem and distance ourselves from actions which are not correct?