An apartment building in Holon in central Israel collapsed on Sunday, leaving 36 families homeless and bereft of any basic necessities. But tragedy was surely averted as just one day earlier, it was evacuated due to safety concerns.
The incident is reminiscent of an incident in June in which a 12-story apartment building in Surfside, Florida collapsed suddenly in the middle of the night, killing 98 people, making it the third-deadliest structural engineering failure in United States history.
Israel is still reeling from a year of deadly events. In April, on the holiday of Lag Ba’Omer during the annual pilgrimage to the tomb of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai on Mount Meron, 45 people were killed and over 150 injured in the worst peacetime tragedy in modern Israeli history.
The next month, 2 people were killed and over 160 injured when bleachers in a synagogue in Givat Zeev north of Jerusalem collapsed.
Rabbi Dayan: repeat of 9-11 averted
Rabbi Yosef Dayan, a former member of the Sanhedrin and a direct descendant of King David, noted that the day the building first cracked was precisely the 20th anniversary of the 9-11 attacks on the US.
“Understanding God’s decisions is beyond us but we are required to act in every circumstance as His servants,” Rabbi Dayan said. “When we bless on water, we bless ‘that everything is in His will.’ Not only is it His will to create the water, but God also created our thirst. He also created the glass that holds the water. What is for sure is that God gives far more than He withholds. It is difficult but it was God’s will that the building fall. We must thank him that unlike the tragedy of 20 years ago, no one was hurt. God gave us an opportunity that those people would have wanted; an opportunity to help our neighbors. Nobody wants to be in the position that they have to ask for help so sometimes, God puts them in a position against their will in order to give us this opportunity to connect with them. He had to make them suffer in order to give us this opportunity but, thank God, in this case, compared to what we have seen this year and 20 years ago, not so much.”
Despite escaping death, the former residents are hard-pressed to begin life anew with literally just the clothes on their backs.
“This came during the Ten Days of Repentance between Rosh Hashanna and Yom Kippur,” Rabbi Dayan said. “And nothing is better for repentance than charity.”
Rabbi Hollander: “Who by water and who by fire”
“If you begin to presume that you understand God, you can take it to a horrible place. This was not a reward or a punishment. We have the requirement to use our intelligence and understanding to prevent tragedy and to preserve life,” Rabbi Hollander said. “Thank God, the people in Holon had that opportunity. But that is not always the case.”
The rabbi referred to the Untanneh Tokef prayer that will be recited this week on Yom Kippur.
On Rosh Hashanah will be inscribed and on Yom Kippur will be sealed – how many will pass from the earth and how many will be created; who will live and who will die; who will die after a long life and who before his time; who by water and who by fire, who by sword and who by beast, who by famine and who by thirst, who by upheaval and who by plague, who by strangling and who by stoning. Who will rest and who will wander, who will live in harmony and who will be harried, who will enjoy tranquility and who will suffer, who will be impoverished and who will be enriched, who will be degraded and who will be exalted.
Rabbi Hollander emphasized the ending of the prayer.
“Repentance, Prayer, and Charity mitigate the severity of the Decree,” Rabbi Hollander quoted. “Just as we use our intelligence to avoid catastrophes or to preserve our health, we should understand that our spiritual well-being also requires action.”