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A pseudonym
by Prof. Yirmiyahu Branover

Several weeks ago, air traffic over Europe came to a standstill due to volcanic ash from the eruption of the Eyjafjallajokull volcano in Iceland. Thousands of travelers were left stranded after air traffic controllers decided that it was too great a risk to allow aircraft to fly. It was one of those unusual moments in our technological age when manmade craft came face to face with their limitations vis-à-vis the forces of nature.

For some, the airport closure was a crisis, disrupting their plans and leaving them scrambling to find lodging and accommodations. Others took the delay in stride, and used the time to study, to reflect or to spend more time with their families. Some took it as an omen, of our need to accept the limitations of technology and learn to live within the parameters of nature.

Upon witnessing a natural phenomenon such as thunder, an earthquake or volcano, our sages have instituted a blessing to recite: “Blessed are You, our G-d, King of the universe, whose power and might fill the universe.” Although G-d has given the tools into our hands to manipulate and even overcome nature, at times G-d sends us a reminder that He is in control after all. The technology is only a tool, a gift from G-d; however, we must slow down and acknowledge His mastery over our lives.

In G-d’s great kindness, this time the volcano erupted in an area of the world that was not heavily populated, and there were no human casualties. The European air traffic controllers were perhaps overly cautious, but their prompt response prevented any loss of life. The loss of hundreds of thousands of productive hours and billions upon billions of dollars cannot be weighed against the cost of human life.

When a natural phenomenon such as a volcano disrupts the busy hum and routine of our lives, it is an opportunity to take stock, to recognize and appreciate G-d’s constant involvement in our lives and in nature. While we are blessed to live in a wealthy society in which air travel is possible, we must never forget in Whose hands these blessings reside. Now is a time to give praise and thanks to G-d for allowing these miracles on a day-to-day, usually uninterrupted basis.

Now is also an opportunity to intensify our faith in the imminent coming of Moshiach. Disruptions in the earth, such as earthquakes and volcanoes, are among the signs predicted by our sages that will herald the arrival of Moshiach. As the volcanic ash clouds dissipate, they will part to make way for an unprecedented light—the light of the ultimate Redemption.

Prof. Yirmiyahu Branover is chairman of the Center of Magnetohydrodynamic Studies and Training at Ben-Gurion University.

 

 


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