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The Perfect Storm

09/14/2018 12:40:11 PM

Sep14

The phrase ‘The Perfect Storm’ comes from the non-fiction book with this title, authored by Sabastian Junger in 1997. Three years later the book was turned into a film with the same name.

The phrase connotes a confluence of bad circumstances that combine to form a monumental disaster. In the case of the fishing vessel Lady Grace and her crew, that particularly harsh storm was caused by three different weather events – a high-pressure system, a low-pressure system, and a hurricane. Sadly, in that story, there were no survivors.

Next Wednesday, on Yom Kippur afternoon, we will read the story of another perfect storm, one which may offer another meaning to the phrase.

It’s the Book of Jonah. Jonah, a prophet, was summoned by G-d to travel to the city Ninveh. Ninveh was a city filled with crime and immorality. Jonah was to warn them that if they don’t repent and change their ways, G-d will punish them. Jonah is too afraid to embark on his mission, so he attempts to run away – from G-d and from his responsibilities. He boards a ship to sail far away. In the middle of the ocean, a huge storm hits and threatens to destroy the ship and its passengers. Jonah understands that this is an act of G-d, and that he is the cause of the problems. He agrees to be thrown overboard with the hopes that the storm will then subside. He gets thrown over, and the storm indeed abates.

Now that the people on board the ship are saved, what will become of Jonah? The tale continues with the popular story of the whale, which swallows Jonah and eventually spits him out on dry land. Upon witnessing these supernatural events, Jonah now realizes that he can’t run away from G-d; that G-d believes in him; and that he ought to go on and fulfill the task which G-d gave him. He travels to Ninveh, and successfully encourages the city’s residents to do teshuva. Ninveh is spared.

In the Book of Jonah, the perfect storm describes how many harsh elements came together, but instead of resulting in disaster, they only served as wake up calls, as forces which pushed Jonah towards being his best, and led to the eventual happy ending. It was truly The Perfect Storm.

As I write these words, our attention is focused on Hurricane Florence, a category 1 hurricane which has now made landfall in North Carolina. The hurricane is expected to be devastating, last a while, dump record amounts of rainwater, and severely punish homes with crushing winds and floodwaters. Thousands of people have evacuated, but many are still in harm’s way.

We in Miami know what it’s like. We have a long history of similar disasters. Just one year ago we were preparing to be hit by the category 4 Hurricane Irma.

Thankfully, we were very much spared last year, and the devastation was nothing close to what was predicted. At the time, I described how Irma was indeed a Perfect Storm. True, my car was crushed, our electrical power was off for 11 days, and our yards and streets were a mess. But Irma was the cause of tremendous blessings for our community, especially just days before the High Holydays. We witnessed so much goodness and kindness – people helping people. We saw the best humanity had to offer. It was the perfect preparation before the Day of Judgement.

Now as well, we pray that Hashem will do the same to Hurricane Florence. We hope that the storm will calm very quickly, that everyone will be safe, and that they will be able to resume normal life very soon.

Before lighting Shabbat candles this evening, I suggest that we all make a special prayer for the safety and welfare of all in harm’s way.

And I bless you all, that no matter what storms and forces come your way this year, may they all create The Perfect Storm for your life, and result in unimaginable blessings of good fortune.

Shabbat Shalom and Gmar Chatima Tova!

Wed, December 19 2018 11 Tevet 5779