Sandy and Sandy Hook
More than one email arrived in my inbox asking me to comment on the seemingly strange coincidence that 2 major events in the northeastern United States within 2 months of each other both had the name "Sandy". What message is Hashem trying to convey to us with the double-use of this word in 2 very tragic events?
The short answer is: I don't know.
And many will be satisfied by that answer.
However, for those who are not, I will attempt to give an explanation - not one that I believe is Emet La'amito - but one that Hashem put in my head, and might help some people understand this better, for whatever it's worth. I've already received some interesting ideas from some people, especially from those who are trying to promote Aliya, but I have a different take on it.
Hurricane Sandy's landfall on the East Coast occurred during the second week of Heshvan, a mere few days after those in Eretz Yisrael started praying for rain. In Israel, Sephardic Jews started Bareich Aleinu and Ashkenazic Jews started Vetein Tal Umatar Livracha on 7 Heshvan, and Hurricane Sandy hit New York and vicinity on 13 Heshvan, while forming days earlier.
And the devastation from the hurricane was mainly from the water, which destroyed homes and flooded basements with irreparable damage.
The tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School occurred during Hanukka, when we were lighting candles with fire. And the madman who caused this did so with gun-fire.
On Rosh Hashana, many Jews recite the poem called Untaneh Tokef, which includes the famous words, "Who by water? Who by fire?" We now know part of the answer for this year.
Interestingly, there were exactly 6 weeks from Rosh Hashana until Hurricane Sandy. And there were just over 6 weeks from landfall of Hurricane Sandy until the shooting in Sandy Hook Elementary.
The name "Sandy" connotes "sand", as I had said previously. An interesting property of sand is that sand is something that both calms water down (see Yirmiya 5:22) and also retards fires. That is what works when things are in their natural state. When things are not in their natural state, the water and the fire break through the sand and destroy that which is decreed for them to destroy.
Perhaps, we can say that Hashem is saying Sand-y, i.e., the possessive - My sand - the sand is Mine, says Hashem. Hashem is in charge of nature, and when He wants natural defense mechanisms to work, He will make them work, while when He wants natural defense mechanisms to fail, He will make them fail. There is no purely natural defense mechanism - it all comes from Hashem. As it says in Tehillim 127:1: "except the LORD keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain".
This is why many of those who tried to sand-bag and board-up their homes during the hurricane did their Hishtadlut, but ultimately did so in vain. And regarding Sandy Hook Elementary, we must do whatever we can to prevent such things in the future, but we are ultimately not in control. Only Hashem is. It is His sand. Being a member of society will not necessarily prevent that person from becoming a madman. In this case, the fire was not retarded by the sand. It is Hashem's sand to remove and He did so at this time.
Why at this time? Being that we are in the times very close to Mashiah, we are currently not in a natural state. Perhaps, Hashem is telling us that all the natural defense mechanisms that we have taken for granted throughout our lives may not work for us any longer. Maybe Hashem is trying to tell us that from now on, we have to rely more on prayer than on whatever Hishtadlut we may have done.
This is my take on it. Take it for whatever it's worth. May Hashem comfort the families of the victims of these horrific tragedies, and may we know no more sorrow.