WEATHER: Not Your Cookie-Cutter Judaism
Illustration (Image credit: Exposure Today [CC0] via pixabay)
With all this talk about earthquakes, I suppose it only appropriate that the weather has been "acting" a bit unusual. I'm not used to seeing fast-moving clouds in summertime, or even to exclaim: "Was that a drop of rain?"
Despite the recent cool weather, the mid-week period will turn quite hot with Thursday being the hottest, as high pressure builds eastward from Africa. What we seem to be missing this summer is a very strong heat low over the desert to our east. Instead there is a anomalous area of cold air over west-central Russia (or north of Kazakstan).
This will help create an atmospheric flow pattern that will allow for unusually cool summer air to drop down over the eastern Mediterranean at middle and upper levels of the atmosphere as we head into the Tisha B’Av Fast. The models are actually showing showers over northern and central areas as Shabbat moves into Sunday's fast.
Those who work in the field of atmospheric sciences are much more fortunate than those who study plate tectonics and dream of someday predicting earthquakes. Earthquakes are very hard to predict, even when they are happening! They are also very difficult to predict before they happen because the data required to do so is not complete and hard to get—earthquakes can start 30 km beneath the surface!
There are other issues to contend with. For instance, the equations that describe the ebb and flow of the atmosphere are well-known (although errors in initial data do lead to errors in the forecasts, as well as for other reasons). Earthquakes can happen when one plate moves below another or to the side. The action occurs suddenly, which is equivalent to a step-function in mathematics that is simple to write, but hard to formulate (like when a bridge or dam suddenly collapses due to a build up of pressure or weakening of the supports).
Others have more obvious predictors. Shall we blame the strange weather on the plan to possibly build a mixed prayer pavilion at the Kotel (Western Wall)? Or, shall we only blame the recent bout of earthquakes on such plans, as MK Yinon Azoulay (Shas) recently did?
Perhaps there is a more obvious reason. My "Torah Anthology Vol 5:Exodus II—Redemption" (Me'am Lo'ez Series), translated by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, notes that one of the reasons the Jewish people were redeemed from Egypt was because they didn't speak lashon hara (harmful gossip about others). But, here we have a Knesset lawmaker blaming the Reform movement for earthquakes.
Then we had a kashrut authority revoke Barkan Wines certificate for employing Ethiopians. The Edah Haharedit claims that there is not enough proof that Ethiopians who immigrated to Israel are actually Jewish (so they are not allowed to touch the wine while it is being prepared).
Baseless questioning of someone else's Jewishness is frowned upon by the halacha (Jewish law). Yet, here we have a group claiming to be a "congregation of God-fearing" people engaging in actions anathema to customary Jewish observance.
In my opinion, the best way to demonstrate your goodness as a person is to be kind to others. Striving for extra strictness based on the most extreme measure of Jewish law is actually based on selfishness. One might hope to get extra brownie points, but you'll really end up with burnt cookies.
Image credit: The Jerusalem Herald
Dr. Lynn is a lecturer at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Earth Sciences Department. He is also CEO of Weather It Is, LTD, a company that specializes in reducing weather risk.