A swarm of 134 tremors in California and a recent geological study that confirmed a year of increased seismic activity have led to speculations that the earthquakes are a portal for a God-sent destructive force to come into the world before the Messiah, striking out indiscriminately at both good and evil.
Last Monday, a 3.4 magnitude earthquake rocked central California. Though considered a minor event, the shaking still has not stopped and instability in that three-mile section of the volatile San Andreas Fault generated an additional 133 tremors in the last seven days. All but 17 of these tremors went undetected by the general public, registering at less than 2.5 on the Richter scale. This swarm of quakes raised fears of ‘the big one’, the long-anticipated devastating West Coast earthquake.
Such calamitous earthquakes and volcanoes raise religious awareness as they are explicitly mentioned in prophecy as part of the end-of-days.
And I will bring the third part through the fire and will refine them as silver is refined and will try them as gold is tried; they shall call on My name and I will answer them; I will say: ‘It is My people’ and they shall say: ‘Hashem is my God.’ Zechariah 13:9
Rabbi Avraham Arieh Trugman, director of Ohr Chadash Torah Institute, told Breaking Israel News that natural disasters offer many lessons to the spiritually minded, but also raise difficult theological dilemmas.
“Hashem (God) has a reason for everything but it would be somewhat arrogant to claim we know definitively a reason for disasters,” Rabbi Trugman said. “We are not in the position to know the true causes but we should try to understand these natural phenomenon as a wake-up call.”
Ecology, as a study of the interconnectedness of nature, is inherently Biblical, Rabbi Trugman explained.
“Hashem is one, and everything is from Him, so everything is interconnected,” the rabbi said. “According to Jewish tradition, man and his actions are connected even to earthquakes, in ways truly beyond our comprehension.”
Remarkably, scientists’ search for a reason behind the recent spate of earthquakes led them to a similar conclusion in which the unity of the world and the interplay between seemingly disparate elements was the key.
A recent study presented at the annual meeting of the Geological Society of America suggested that this year is an especially active time period for earthquakes and volcanoes. The study tracked the history of earthquakes worldwide of magnitude 7.0 or greater since 1900, noting an average of 15 such earthquakes every year.
At evenly spaced intervals, this average jumped to between 25 and 30. The cycle corresponded to periodic slowdowns in the rate of the earth’s spin which affect seismic activity. The researchers credit the current slowdown with the wave of quakes that recently hit Mexico, and the major quake that shook Iraq and Iran.
The study predicted an above-average number of earthquakes in the upcoming year.
“We are part of a greater process that includes natural phenomenon,” Rabbi Trugman said. “The Talmud (Oral Law) gives reasons for natural phenomenon. The Sages understood that natural events have spiritual reasons although we may not be aware of their true causes.”
However, he continued, understanding the divine element to natural disasters raises moral difficulties. “It is hard to justify God’s part in natural disasters when thousands of people die, good and bad together,” Rabbi Trugman said. “Where is the individual’s relationship with God?”
For a Jewish response, Rabbi Trugman cited Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki, a medieval French rabbi known by the acronym Rashi. In his commentary on the Biblical account of the flood, Rashi addressed the dilemma of how God can kill both good people and bad people in natural disasters.
“When immorality spreads out of control, God gives permission to the ‘destroyer’ and he takes the innocent with the guilty, the good with the bad,” Rabbi Trugman said, paraphrasing Rashi.
“The implications of this is that there are certain forces in the world that once a certain tipping point is arrived at, the good are taken with the bad and there is nothing that can be done about it.”
Rabbi Trugman emphasized that this process will change after the arrival of the Messiah and the natural disasters that ushered in the Messiah will disappear.
“At one point, the earth will be ‘tamed’ and as physical and spiritual reality merges and becomes increasingly clarified there will be no more natural disasters,” Rabbi Trugman said. “This goes along with Jewish tradition that human nature will also change radically so that there will also be an end to hunger, wars, jealousy, and competition.”