Biblical Destruction, Inspirational Chesed and Words of Chizuk
We have all seen the pictures of Sandy's wrath, but nothing can prepare you for viewing it up close and personal. It just slams your consciousness like a ... hurricane.
From a broader perspective, it is simply terrifying to see the colossal devastation on a communal level. But it is far more haunting to see the destruction through the shell-shocked eyes of the individuals who quite literally lost all their material possessions in a matter of hours.
Our parents raised us in Belle Harbor, half a block from the ocean, in what was once a beautiful, well-kept neighborhood. But last week as I walked the familiar and unrecognizable streets of our youth in stunned silence, it was striking to notice that there is no color there anymore.
Belle Harbor looked like the black-and-white pictures we have all seen of London after the Blitz of World War II. The grass and flowers were covered with a foot of beige sand, piles of gray rubble one-story high were everywhere, and thousands of black, industrial-size garbage bags lined the streets where we once played as children.
With the permission of the current owners, I walked through our childhood home, looking in disbelief at the water line seven feet high in our playroom and in the bedroom where I had countless pillow fights with my brother Reb Yehudah. Walking to the ocean, I stared at the shattered shells of homes that I passed thousands of times a generation ago, and walked along the footings of the Boardwalk that has been completely obliterated.
Amid the biblical destruction of Belle Harbor, Seagate, Far Rockaway/5 Towns and other communities hardest hit by Sandy are the incredibly inspiring chesed activities of hundreds of ordinary, extraordinary members of our community. Their stories need to be told and retold to our children and children's children so they will know how to conduct themselves when tragedy strikes. But for now, we all need to engage our friends, neighbors and community organizations to assist them.
There are so many needs – immediate and longer term – that it is often overwhelming to think about them. But there is much we can and must do to stand with our brothers and sisters in their time of need. There are effective models of what schools and communities have recently done to give aid and comfort to Sandy's survivors. Let us all do what we can to get more of these initiatives started and brought to fruition.
May Hashem comfort the families who lost so much as only He can, and may we have the ze’chus(merit) to support them financially and emotionally as they struggle to rebuild their homes and lives.
To sign up for Rabbi Horowitz’s weekly emails, please click here.