Understanding The Haiti Tragedy

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    Pashuteh Yid

    I am having a lot of trouble processing this terrible tragedy. In my opinion, the main job of a religion is to provide answers to the key question troubling mankind, which is actually two questions, the second of which is often ignored:

    1) Why do bad things happen to good people?

    2) What can be done about it? I.e., how to prevent it before it occurs.

    My feeling is that even if one claims to know the answer to the first, that is really not the part that bothers people. The only thing people really want is relief from current pain and prevention of future tragedies. So the first question is really not the main question.

    I feel now like we have totally failed. Maybe we didn’t daven well enough in the past, or weren’t concerned enough about our fellow humans or whatever.

    I do not understand why this happened to Haiti. If this would have happened to Nazi Germany, I don’t think anybody would be feeling bad. Same with Communist Russia or the evil Iranian rulers, etc. But Haiti was a poor, impoverished country that didn’t seem to be bothering anybody else. And even if some person will make the claim that they were punished for XYZ, then I would tell that person, I think you have a lot of audacity to say that. Since if it was true, why didn’t you go there and warn the people ahead of time to change their ways, as Yonah did to the Anshei Nineveh. So obviously you had no foreknowledge, and your theory is bogus.

    I am in a lot of pain and wondering how we can sit down to a Shabbos meal and sing songs (what right do we have) knowing that thousands of people are in mourning now.

    If anybody has any thoughts, please share.


    Beautiful heartfelt post.

    I remember when the Tzunami occured, people were saying that this happened in a place occupied by Oivdei Avode Z’.

    Germans never really paid a price for what they did and nor did the Communists.

    Unfortunately , the innocent always are scapegoats.

    I think if we start to educate our kids on how to be sensitive to others, regardless of their background and religion, we would feel like we accomplished a great deal.


    The answer is that Hashem Likes us soo much that he gives us a wake up call every so often. a call that doesn’t directly affect us, but he wants we should realize that yes its we that need to do Tshuva. If this would happen in Germany or Russia a lot more yidden would be affected directly.

    NY Mom

    Pashuteh Yid:

    Yes, the earthquake in Haiti and its aftermath is very sad and very tragic. But we have to understand that there are things in life that we can not fathom Hashem’s intent, and we must trust that the Ribono Shel Olam is only good and does good for His creations.

    You remind me of the mashal of the man who has never been to a farm and he does not understand how grain is grown. All he sees is a beautiful field, with flowers and grasses, and along comes the farmer and plows out all the beautiful plants. The farmer ruins everything, and in its place is now just a field of overturned dirt! The man can not believe what he has seen, and cries over the destruction of such beauty. Imagine his surprise when the farmer then comes and digs holes in the earth and takes grains and buries them! What a waste! How could he waste good grain like that! Well, you can imagine how the story proceeds…He finally sees the wonderful field of grain and the farmer comes along and cuts it all down! How could he ruin everything he worked for like that?! It is the same with every step. Everything the farmer does seems incomprehensible to the man. Every time the man thinks he sees the reason and the good, the farmer does something else he just can not understand for the life of him! Why would you beat the beautiful plants you have just grown? Ah! To get the grain. But what is this? Why are you crushing all that grain that you have grown to dust? It is not until he sits down to a meal with the farmer and eats the delicious bread that the man can understand the farmer’s wisdom.

    We can not always know Hashem’s reasons, but we know that Hashem has a plan and always does chesed with his creations. Understanding this can give us nechamah when a horribly sad tragedy occurs.

    I hope this knowledge can ease your mind a bit.

    Ben Levi

    Dear Pashuteh Yid,

    I presume from the context of your coment that when you describe your views on Religion you are including “Judaisim” in it. Therefore I must correct you. The Ramchal in Derech Hashem explains in great detail the purpose of Judaisim and it is not what you wrote.

    Furthermore according to one pshat in Chazal in Mesechta Brochos it is impossible for humankind to ever truly know why the “good” suffer.

    In answer to your question of Haiti, that question is actually quite appropo as Rashi in this weeks Parsha (Perek Zayin Pasuk Gimel) states quite clearly that the derech of Hakodosh Boruch Hu is ” Mavie Poruneus al HaUmos K’DeiSheyishmuo YisroelV’Yiruo.

    As such it would seem that from a tragedy of such immense proportions Klal Yisroel sould indeed shudder and make a true Cheshbon Hanefesh.


    Perhaps your opinion regarding religion and these questions is wrong? Where is it stated that the purpose of religion, judaism specifically, exists to answer these 2 questions?

    This does not mean that what happened is not horrible or that we should feel for and attempt to help in whatever way we can.

    If you knew why it happened, would you understand why it happened?


    see Rashi on this week’s parsha 7:3, where he cites two psukim from Tzefanioh 3:6,7 and you will have an answer to your heartfelt query.

    It does not deal with every aspect of your question.

    Ben Levi

    i would just like to clarify when I wrote it is quite “appropo” I was refering to the question not the tragedy.


    Ben Levi

    I edited your post, if that’s okay


    Why Have You Done Bad to this People?!

    One Rabbi’s Response to the Haitian Earthquake of 2010

    Wednesday, January 13, 2010

    By Shais Taub dor chabad.org

    It’s hard enough to comprehend the significance of what a 7.0 magnitude earthquake does to a densely populated area. It’s even harder to imagine what this means when most of the people affected are already living in sub-standard conditions.

    Haiti is figured to be the poorest country in the Americas. Something like a third of its GNP is foreign aide. It’s been wracked by disease, war, hurricanes and, now, earthquake. It’s unreal. Anyone who says that they can understand it clearly doesn’t understand it at all.

    Most of us will react with compassion. We will feel sympathy for the millions displaced from their homes, searching for lost relatives and left without access to even the most meager resources. Some of us will find somewhere to quickly donate online to help in the relief effort.

    And then there are those – a very, very small number actually – who will take it upon themselves to interpret for us the meaning of the disaster. They will try to extract moral lessons from what happened. Perhaps they will find some reason to explain why the Haitian people deserve such pitifully bad luck. They did the same thing after Katrina and after the Tsunami. They are quick to figure out why people suffer and to hold up the victims as a frightening example of G-d’s potential wrath to us as well.

    Please, do not listen to those who exploit human suffering for rhetorical flair.

    They will tell you that G-d wants to tell us something and that if we don’t learn from this, there will be more calamity.

    I know this because this is how they respond to every tragedy that grabs the world’s attention.

    What they are loath to admit is that we have no idea why this happened. We have no idea why G-d did this. There are no answers that we can understand.

    How then are we of faith to react? I mean, in addition to offering our help and our sympathy. How are we supposed to look at something like this?

    Just this past Saturday, in Jewish communities all over the world, we read the first portion of the Book of Exodus-a portion which ends withMoses’ complaint to G-d: “Why have You done bad to Your people?”

    The answer to this question comes at the beginning of this week’s Torahreading, in which G-d basically answers that the patriarchs, Abraham,Isaac and Jacob, also had cause to question Him but never did. In other words, G-d doesn’t answer the question. Rather, He tells Moses that from another perspective – the perspective of the Patriarchs – it would not even occur to ask such a question.

    It’s actually quite remarkable. G-d never answered the question.

    I wonder if that’s because G-d knew that Moses wouldn’t be able to understand the answer… or because He knew that he would?

    It is not for us to be comfortable with human suffering. It is certainly not for us to rationalize it away or, worse yet, to use false piety to audaciously explain the unexplainable.

    Does G-d have a plan? Does He know what He is doing? Yes.

    Are we able to explain what that is? If we do, we show that we have not only lost our hearts but also our minds.


    Hanistaros LaHashem Elokeinu……

    Ben Levi

    No Problem Mod, In fact thanks.

    And yochi, The rabbis speech is pretty eloquent and heartfelt yet he doesn’t adress Rashi which also happens to be in this weeks Parsha.

    As for the speech’s substance the comparison Hashem made to the Avos Hakedoshim was actually about Moshe Rabbeinu’s request “what is the name I should tell them” (paraphrasing). I would actually suggest that any one who would like to know More on that particular matter should learn through the end of last weeks Medrash Rabba and beginning of this weeks it’s actually quite interesting. Especially since Chazal do state why Hashem made the shibud worse at the end.

    In brief it was in order to cause all the mitzrim to partake in the Jews suffering so that they could not claim “collective punishment” later on. Again learn through Medrash Rabba the end of Shmos.


    Dear author,

    Perhaps ask yourself the following questions first:

    What is the purpose of the life? Is it too live a “long” life of being “poor, impoverished not bothering anybody else”?

    Does every sinful city like Ninvai deserve forewarning before destruction? Ninvai was only forewarned because they were innocently perpetuating evil as the posuk states “they don’t know from their left to their right”.

    Do I truly understand or even have the right to declare that I understand the definition of “good people” that I can ask; “Why do bad things happen to good people”.

    Do I really believe that “if this would have happened to Nazi Germany, I don’t think anybody would be feeling bad. Same with Communist Russia or the evil Iranian rulers, etcdesctruction” or perhaps I convince myself that nobody would be feeling bad. Apparently the Torah was concerend that we would feel bad for evil doers as the verse sates “lo suches aincha alaiyhem”.

    Perhaps change your user name to Emunah Peshuta Yid and all your questions will be answered.

    hamaivin yovin

    Ben Levi

    Perhaps one could add that those who think that no one would have felt bad if such a thing had happened in Nazi Germany don’t really know thier history. The American Airlift to save the quote on quote “innocent people” of Berlin from starvation right after the war is still considered to be one of the greatest “humanatarian” acts of the last century by non-jewish sources.

    Look it up.


    The loss of life and destruction is truly heart breaking, and I share your emotions. But at the core, isn’t the real source of this tragedy in geology, gravity, and anatomy? Aren’t we really asking why the Almighty didn’t violate the laws of physics and nature for the sake of innocent people? And by the same token, how can we say that there was a “reason” or “message”, implying that physical laws were violated in order to make a statement? And isn’t it true that if we could have observed all the molecular interactions that led up to the quake, we could have predicted it and evacuated? Ultimately, observable deviations from nature, whether constructive (preventing destruction and death) or destructive (smoking the bad guys with fire and brimstone from the heavens), are so very rare because they are the antithesis of free choice – what would an atheist say if there were no casualties or damage from a 7.0 quake? I for one find comfort in the fact that we grieve – it means we care – it means we value the inherent beauty of life and of humanity for which there are no real explanations to be found in physics and chemistry. We accept the real miracles of life, and suffer the consequence of the physical operations that facilitate them.

    Ben Levi

    Vadim, There are 7.0 quakes that have very few casualties, wasn’t there just one of that type in California? It just so happened that this one took place in a desperatley poor country with no real building codes in place which led to thousands of buildings collapsing as a result.

    I once heard from a Rosh Yeshiva that the real danger of newspapers is their ability to make everything “rational” hundreds of thousands of people die because of the laws of geology. One need not take a lesson from it it was just a “natural occurence”.

    Rashi and other Rishonim may have taught us that when Hashem brings tragedy upon the nations it is expressly so that we should get the message. But with our enlighted indset our vast knowledge of geology and gravity(the source of which is unknown and purely speculated upon) are able to “explain” these events as mere natural occurances.

    We complain when disaster strikes. We ask why it happened, what did we do to deserve it?

    Do we ever stop and think?

    The Mesilas Yeshorim writes that those who do not posses the ability to contemplate bring tragedy upon themselves. First Hashem sends a small message those who are wise get it. Those who are not then need a slightly stronger one and it goes on and on.

    Perhaps if we wanted to end such tragedys we would do the obvious. Perhaps it is time to say we don’t need any more wake up calls.

    After September 11th a prominent Rav said in public. “I am not a navi I can not say specifically what brought about this tragedy, However I do know that we need to learn from it and each of us needs to make a Cheshbon HaNefesh. We each need to figure out what each of us as individuals must improve upon”

    Perhaps a Tragedy of such magnitutde requires that those of us who are Mavir Sedra with Rashi need to be mekabel “Yishmuo V’Yiruo” as Rashi in this very week writes and understand that tetonic plates only move when Hashem tells them to and if these particular ones did not move for over 200 years till now it is for a reason and it’s time we stopped kidding ourselves about it.

    Pashuteh Yid

    Thanks to all for taking the time to read and respond to original post.

    1) I strongly agree with those who have voiced the opinion which was also well-expressed by the Chabad Rabbi that we don’t have any good explanation for this.

    2) I strongly disagree with those who quoted the Rashi in Shmos 7:3 for 3 reasons:

    A) He was talking about the wicked Egyptians and not presumably innocent people like Haitian children.

    B) If that is the explanation then when a little Haitian child is crying tonite for her mother, then all we need to do is to tell her that Mommy died because G-d wanted to warn the Jews. That is really satisfying to a child.

    C) Suppose some non-Jewish holy book said that the reason why G-d punishes Jews is to give a warning to the Christians. So if a Christian child learns about the Holocaust and asks why it happened, his teacher should tell him it was to give the Christians a warning by killing Jewish children. Remember that anything you say is a two-way street. If 2+2=4 for the Jews, then 2+2=4 for the non-Jews. If you wouldn’t like this explanation when used by someone else, then don’t offer it either.

    D) This is the problem when one parrots Maamarei Chazal without first making sure he has a hesber (understanding).

    3) Jphone, people generally turn to their religion for solace and comfort in difficult times. That is what I meant.

    4) A further question that bothers me is if the RBSH wrote in his Torah that we are not allowed to kill, then why is He allowed to violate it. Doesn’t the Medrash say that He puts on tefillin? (which indicates that He observes the Torah.)

    5) We should learn from here that since we can’t explain this tragedy, we also have no understanding of any other tragedies. A little anivus (humility) is in order. Believe it or not, as ludicrous as it may seem, I actually heard someone saying that the Holocaust occurred because people talked in shul. Others have blamed this group or that. Clearly it is all nonsense, as we have no explanation in terms of aveiros, since they were kedoshei elyon. (I strongly recommend the book Faith after the Holocaust.)

    6) One the other hand, those who say that we can’t understand the reasons make an understanding of bitachon and ahavas hashem very difficult. What does it mean to trust or love Hashem when we have no clue how he operates? How can we reassure a worried child about his medical operation, or somebody worried that they will ever find a shidduch, or somebody worried that he is about to lose his house, “Don’t worry, Hashem will make sure everything is fine.” But 100,000 people just died. Why should a person think it will work out for me, when it didn’t for all these others?

    7) Note that while my questions sound very difficult, Moshe Rabbeinu and others have also talked sharf to the RBSH. (Lama Hareosa and V’im ayin mcheini na misifricha asher kasavta.)

    8) If nothing else, we must learn some anivus and compassion for people of other cultures, and realize our shared humanity. Being a chosen nation doesn’t mean better in any way. Rather it means having more responsibility to be a mensch to all others.


    Ben Levi, beautiful post. Everything that happens is a message, to remind us that Hashem runs the world, and we are capable of being punished through nature even today. This is not to say that the people of haiti were guilty, any more than the hundreds of thousands who perished in the tsunami were guilty. The ones who are guilty are us, the observant Jews who should know better than our current behavior.

    Ben Levi

    Pashuteh Yid,

    1) Look in Rashi, Rashi is specifically talking about other tragedy’s “Cach He Darko Shel Hakodosh Boruch Hu”

    2)I do not know how explaining what to ansewer a Haitian child has anything to do with the Torah Hashkofa on this.

    3)Actually I would not particularly care what a Cristian preacher says is the cause of the Holocaust.And whether I like it or not it is Rashi (as well as the Ran in Droshos) who stated the Torah Hashkofa to this event. It is not somethingone can ignorebecause”i would’nt like if a Cristian would say it”

    4) Can you please explain which part of the Chazal that I need to understand better?

    5) As for Hashems Teffilin, it’s actually a Gemora in Brochos and Hashems Teffilin are not the same as ours and I fail to see how you explain death (all death comes throught the Malach Hamuves)

    6) Your statement about talking in shul was actually given as a cause for the Cossack MAssacres we have a specific Mi Sheberach recited in shul to this day specifically as a result of that.

    7) Regarding the Holocaust far be it for me to make a statement about that. What I can say is that Rav Shmuel Berenbaum zt’l The Rosh Yeshiva Of Mirrer Yeshiva in Brooklyn who lost his entire extended family in the Holocaust told me personally. ” it was obvious to everyone it was a oinesh for the haskala, Germany is where the Haskala came from, We have a Tochecha we don’t think it’s real Hashem warned us what would happen” (the original statement was made in Yiddish and was part of an hours long discussion mostly about pre-war Europe)

    8) As for your understanding of “Am Hanivchor” I would suggest you learn through Derech Hashem as the Ramchal explains it in detail. A hint would be if you would look at Tosfes in Kesubos Daf Gimmel amud Beis. “Afkeireh Rachmona L’zarei D’Mitzri”. Also llok up why a ger is considered “k’kuton shenolad


    yasher ko’ach “ben levi”! i’m starting to feel like i’m on this liberal american site where ‘am hanivchor’ is a dirty word. “we are all equal. live and let live. everyone’s entitled to his/her own opinion”. we are not the ones who decided who should be chosen or indeed, that anyone should be chosen. that was HKB”H’s decision as detailed countless times in the Tora. And so, to make the stupid comparison between Moshe Rabeinu’s ta’ana on HKB”H regarding His beloved and adored Chosen People, whom He had JUST sent Moshe Rabeinu to SAVE, and between the Ovdei A”Z in Haiti – as Shais Taub (One “Rabbi”) does, is just a sign of flattery toward Liberal secular Jews, and Goyim.

    Actually, though, this whole approach to tragedy (“it just CAN’T make any sense, it just CAN’T be understood, it just CAN’T be any message”) comes from the difficulty we had after the Holocaust when noone was willing or able to accept or understand what HKB”H did to our – His – people then.

    However, in reality, EVERY tragedy – including the Holocaust – is meant to send PEOPLE a message: “Hayoser goyim HALO YOCHI’ACH? HAMELAMED odom da’as!!” “Ashrei hagever asher t’yasrenu koh UMITOROSCHA T’LAMDENU!” “Rak b’einecho sabit, v’shilumas r’sho’im tir’eh!”

    The only reason Moshe Rabeinu couldn’t understand what was happening in Mitzrayim was because we were already in the stage of ge’ula! He had just ben sent to SAVE us, and this suffering was part and parcel of the ge’ula and the BENEFIT for US! For such understanding one must see, feel, understand Hashem’s ENTIRE PLAN in advance! This was something Moshe did not yet understand at that time.

    Besides, it is always beneficial and praiseworthy for a Jewish leader to argue WITH HASHEM that he can’t accept any suffering on k’lal Yisro’el, and that they should always be the recipients of obvious compassion and open good. We find the same later with Gid’on, who was chosen by Hashem for the very reason: that he displayed his love for HASHEM’S BELOVED CHILDREN by arguing With HASHEM for our benefit. We NEVER find, on the other hand believing Jews saying such things to the PEOPLE! We do find apikorsim doing that… So, if someone wants to talk to Hashem or his tzadikim about the subject, by all means, go ahead!

    R’ Shmuel Birnbaum and Harav Avigdor Miller z”l were far from the only ones who were in Europe in the leadup to the Holocaust, lost family, friends and Rebbes there, and still went on to explain publicly and privately “lecho Hashem hatz’doko, v’lonu boshes haponim”. A lesson is a lesson, and going back to what ALL gedolei Yisroel warned BEFORE the destruction is one good place to start learning from.

    Instead, the mantra became “it just CAN’T make any sense, it just CAN’T be understood, it just CAN’T be any message”, which, wonder of wonders, now carries over to HAITI as well! And Moshe Rabeinu’s ta’ana becomes an argument for the goyim of HAITI!!!

    The first lesson, then, for some people, should be “hoyoh lo lilmod v’lo lomad!!!!!!”



    As much as any human heart cries out because if the suffering of any human being, I must speak up and note something that could help be Mechazik our Emunah and yiras shomayim.

    The tragedy in Haiti is clearly a case of MIDAH KINEGED MIDA.

    The OFFICIAL religion of Haiti was Voodoo (also called Vodoun), which is a deprived religion that includes worshipping spirits and “Animal sacrifices, which represents the partaking of the blood, include chicken, goats, and bulls.” Furthermore, Much of the vodoo ceremonies would be considered as REAL ?????.

    In other words, as heartbreaking as it is, “yesh din ve’yesh dayin”. Like the rule that “haolom nidan lifi ruboy”, each country is judged according the majority. The majority are LITERALLY Ovdei Avoda Zorah.

    We do NOT profess to know Hashem’s ways, but it is our obligation to learn from His actions. Who knows if the bloodies corpses are not a punishment for the blood of their blood offerings?

    Additionally, Haiti stood out Lishimtzah, two other ways. 1) In their “voodoo” religion Mishkav Zochor was officially sanctioned, and 2) The paramilitary in Haiti, known as the “Tonton Macoute”, were considered the most brutal in the Americas, and numbered over 300,000. They would cut out the heart and eyes of their victims. Unfortunately, the country is soaked in blood.

    In any case I’m a bit surprised that nobody mentioned the Gemara in ????? ??. that says the reason for ????? ‘EARTHQUAKES” is according to Rav Noson “???? ????? ????? ???????? ???? ?? ???????”. Rashi explains: ?????? ???? ??? ?? ???? ?????? ?????? ???? ????? ?? ??? ???.

    Even more interesting is the fact that the Gemara there brings a reason for earthquakes from none other than a ????. His name was ???? ????, This surely would require more research.



    The Haitians are not innocent! They are reshaim! I am not interpreting the tragedy at all, but having worked with Haitians in the past I can attest to the fact (and many people who know them will too) that they are the worst anti-semites, into vodoo, revenge, immorality, and many other wonderful middos. Why these things happen has been explained many times in the past and if you can’t accept why they happen there is something wrong with the way you think.


    PY, the Torah doesn’t say don’t kill, it says don’t murder.

    That said there is a concept of Hashgacha pratis, and klalis. May fit in here.

    Luckily, you and I don’t have to explain this to the Haitian children; we can just continue to daven for them, and if able and moved to, send money to a legit charity.


    Haiti is a world headquorters of Avoda Zara.

    Of-course it’s for us to see Hashems hand and take inventory of our responsibilities.

    It’s not for us to attempt any further understanding why exactly them or why exactly in such a messure. Hashem is great enough for us to trust that beyond the lessons on the surface there’s exact and procice judgement for evert detail.


    whatever it means, however we should view it, whatever we must do

    must be done as Jews, with the understanding of basic Torah Truths, through Chazal, through our Gedolim.

    not through the eyes and values of the Nations.

    Thank G-d there are Yiddin on this website who are able to respond with Emes.


    “I strongly disagree with those who quoted the Rashi in Shmos 7:3 for 3 reasons:

    A) He was talking about the wicked Egyptians and not presumably innocent people like Haitian children.”

    Poshuta Yid

    Do you believe in the bible? doesn’t it say there that “little children” died and suffered in the ‘Mabul’? and in Egypt don’t you think “little children’ suffered? why didn’t you ask the question now when you see it with your eyes and not when the Torah itself tells you about it? and why didn’t you ask the same question when Jewish children sufferes in the past?

    and who told you Haitis are so innocent?

    What you wrote after that is totally obsured: “Suppose some non-Jewish holy book said that the reason why G-d punishes Jews is to give a warning to the Christians. So if a Christian child learns about the Holocaust and asks why it happened, his teacher should tell him it was to give the Christians a warning by killing Jewish children..”

    This concept of Hashem sending us a warning this way is not some late Jewish invention. It’s openly in the Bible many times! and if the christians want to interpret it the other way arround does that mean we should stop saying the truth???

    Stop feeling on the defensive for G-d. He dosn’t need your help.


    We live in a world of open flow of inforemation and coltural inter-relations, and in this country especially we are preached to respect every colture equally.

    Well, in the word of democracy it has to be that way, but in the world of truth – it’s wrong!

    If a “Yid” starts thinking that way, and beggins questioning every Torah concept saying “well, what if they would say the same to us, how would we take it?” instead of realizing that when we say it it’s the truth and when they say it it’s false – then it’s time for major Chizuk.

    Mayby a “Yid” like that should try cutting off internet and radio for a month or so, just to allow himself to re-connect with his Neshama…


    By the way, my wife amazingly noticed that the big “tznami” a few years ago also happened in the same Parsha, Parshas Vaeira!


    MDshweks what you say sounds so old fashioned. After all we are now living in the modern world. You should drop all those outdated ideas. Read some good modern books of ethics written by the fine ethical professors of our time.

    And lets not forget all the Christin ideals. We could learn from them. After all we are all equal human beings, all the same. We have to stop feeling there is something special or unique about us.

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