Last month an earthquake on the border of Syria and Turkey killed over 47,000 people. Since that catastrophic event, almost 8,000 aftershocks have shaken the region, many felt in Israel. A Jerusalem Kabbalist weighed in, suggesting that the catastrophe was a divine warning.
A 4,5 magnitude earthquake centered off the coast of Lebanon was felt in Israel on Wednesday morning marking the second time this week that Israel was shaken. The epicenter was 18 kilometers below sea level some 81 kilometers northwest of the Israeli coastal city of Nahariya.
The tremor was reportedly felt by residents mostly in the north of the country but no injuries or damages were reported as a result of the tremor.
This follows a 6.4-magnitude earthquake that hit the Turkey-Syrian border region on Monday. That earthquake was also felt in Israel. Six people were killed in Turkey.
7,930 aftershocks have shaken the region since the first devastating 7.8-magnitude earthquake on February 6. More than 600,000 apartments and 150,000 commercial premises had suffered at least moderate damage. The death toll from that earthquake has reached over 47,000.
Many of the aftershocks were felt in Israel.
Rabbi Avraham Shira has been a student and teacher of Jewish mysticism for close to three decades at Yeshivat HaMekubalim, Nahar Shalom, in Jerusalem.
“The Zohar teaches that there are nine rivers that come down from heaven, and each one has its own crocodile in charge,” Rabbi Shira said, emphasizing that the text was speaking in metaphors. “There is another crocodile, the tenth, that is the biggest crocodile of them all.”
“The Zohar is describing the pathways through which the powers of darkness and evil come into the world.”
Rabbi Shira explained that according to the Zohar, these ministering angels of darkness “shake their flippers” once every 70 years, generating an earthquake in the region they rule over.
“The Zohar is teaching us about a primordial force, an energy structure that God uses in interacting with the world,” Rabbi Shira said. “This was imagery that people could understand. Today, scientists have different names for energies affecting the world but it is still a description of how God interacts with the natural world.”
Rabbi Shira explained that scientists do not understand why earthquakes happen at any particular moment or place.
“The Zohar is teaching us that God is active in the world, controls nature, and evil actions give more power to the dark influences that can destroy the world,” Rabbi Shira said. “God is not vengeful in the way that people are vengeful. God mirrors us back at us and recorrects the balance of things, sometimes using earthquakes. If we understand that, we can do tshuva (repent) and fix the balance ourselves.”
“We don’t have the vision or understanding to judge ourselves or others accurately. But we need to try. And thankfully, God is much more merciful than any man would be.”
Rabbi Shira said that a hidden mystic told him that many of the recent earthquakes were intended for Israel but were deferred thanks to the merits of the Jews performing mitzvoth (commandments).
“Many of the buildings in Turkey were unsafe,” Rabbi Shira said.
This small statement emphasized a deeply disturbing point about the recent catastrophe. A report in Turkish media five years ago noted that of the 20 million structures in the country, seven million would be unsafe in an earthquake. The report also warned that many areas previously assigned as earthquake assembly areas in Istanbul were now being used for other purposes. 300 out of 470 such assembly areas were being used as shopping malls and business centers.
In the wake of the earthquakes in Turkey last month, 113 arrest warrants were issued in connection with the construction of buildings that collapsed.
“God is our mirror and we’re supposed to adjust to what happened,” Rabbi Shira said. “But these poor people that are suffering, as we speak, are also not to be blamed. However, there were a lot of builders making a lot of money for those buildings that shouldn’t have been built and they were built.”
“Maybe God’s telling us we should be more careful about how we build because poor people suffer. That’s really the responsibility of leadership that has failed here,” Rabbi Shira said. “Humanity has to take responsibility for accepting what God is telling us. That’s part of the equation people forget. It’s not about blaming God or thinking, God forbid, that he was punishing anyone. It’s about taking responsibility.”