Theologians will probably differ on whether the fires that have ravaged Colorado during our scorching month of June — and in many cases, continue to ravage — are an “act of G-d,” as the insurance companies term such disasters.
All we know is that they have certainly seemed to be of biblical proportions in their enormity and savagery.
Several lives have been lost, more than 600 homes have been reduced to ashes, and thousands upon thousands of acres of forest land decimated in this awful wildfire season. And it’s still the first week of July. A good two months of summer weather — potentially quite hot and dry summer weather — loom ahead.
Leaving the issue of global warming out of the equation, we really don’t have to ask why any of this has taken place. We know how hot it’s been, and how dry. We know that pine beetles have done their insectile best to prepare the forests as tinder. We know that the smallest spark can set things off, whether it be of man’s making or Mother Nature’s (such as lightning).
We also know, however, that no matter how small and insignificant such massive natural disasters make us humans feel, the fires have also proven that we really are not insignificant.
True, we cannot necessarily prevent such fires from breaking out or sometimes growing with fierce rapidity, but we can fight them — and eventually win. Thousands of brave and resilient firefighters are proving that every day in Colorado, in any number of fires.
No, we cannot absolutely prevent the loss of human life, but we can reduce it greatly, as police, fire and other emergency personnel are proving every day, doing their best to provide early evacuation warnings, and often risking their own lives to make doubly sure that people have indeed evacuated threatened areas.
And no, quite obviously, we cannot guarantee that foothills, mountain and plains dwellers will not lose their homes to the flames, but we can do our best to soften that terrible blow and to help these newly homeless people make a new start.
A great many ordinary Coloradoans have been doing precisely that, whether in Ft. Collins, Boulder, Colorado Springs, Denver or elsewhere. They are donating funds and emergency supplies, providing the basic necessities of life, offering their own homes and businesses as shelter.
These noble efforts have come from virtually all segments of the Colorado community. We are proud to say that Colorado Jews have been in the front lines of the efforts to help those traumatized or displaced by the fires, just as Colorado Jews have been victims, or near-victims, of the effects of those fires.
None of this erases, or even minimizes, the many tragedies that we have witnessed in the last few weeks, but it does speak to, and remind us of, the courage, empathy and compassion that still dwell within the human heart.
Rabbi Moshe Liberow of Colorado Springs — whose family barely escaped the Waldo Canyon fire, and whose synagogue barely survived — put it very well when he told us last week: “We go into the grief with warmth.”
It reminds us that even if the fires themselves are ineffable acts of G-d, so are the wonderful acts of those people who are doing their best to help the victims of those fires.
Copyright © 2012 by the Intermountain Jewish News