About a century ago, Rabbi Yisroel Meir HaKohen Kagan learned of a devastating earthquake that cause countless deaths in Japan. The sage was seen to turn white upon hearing the news and immediately declared a fast. When asked why he reacted so strongly to events on the other side of the world, the spiritual leader of European Jewry invoked the talmudic teaching that everything that happens in the world should be interpreted as a message to spur us on to self-reflection and inner change. The more dramatic the event, the more urgency we should give to our introspection.

With a 6.1 aftershock having rattled the ravaged survivors of Haiti, and with the first quake having occurred on the week of the same Torah portion as the Pacific Rim tsunami five years ago, it’s worth revisiting these former musings.

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