The challenges of a new life for all those impacted by Hurricane Harvey will remain for quite some time. The loss of life and property is great. The images of the volume of debris that has been removed from homes is beyond comprehension, although for me, having survived Superstorm Sandy, I can relate. Permit me to share a personal experience.
When it became safe to travel, teams of congregants split up to offer assistance where needed. My son Aaron and I went to a congregant’s home not knowing what to expect despite having seen now-too-familiar images on the television. We brought with us the following: rubber boots; several pairs of gloves; a box of contractor garbage bags; shovels; brooms. We were not prepared for the personal experience of participating in the aftermath – over three feet of water had flooded the garage. Family photographs, personal papers, furniture, mementos, linens, and such were ruined. Fortunately, the house was constructed on pilings, so that the family dwelling was on the level above the garage, but that did not mitigate the loss. Upon discovering the photographs, we assigned one family member the task of placing them on plywood sheets in the sun to dry, and then suggested that as quickly as possible to scan them into the computer before the seawater could cause them to decay. Item after item was placed into a trash bag, unsalvageable. Upon finally clearing out one side of the garage, we swept and swabbed down the concrete with both a bleach solution and Pine-Sol (interesting combination of smells, but far better than what it originally smelled like!). We then went to work to do the same thing to the other side of the garage. I do not remember how many bags of debris we discarded, but the view was the same from every home.
Those who have survived storms of this magnitude mourn their loss. Even if they were fortunate enough not to lose a loved one, nevertheless they are mourners. They need our comfort and support to move beyond their loss to their new reality. The residents of Texas will continue to need our support for a very long time, and as fellow Americans, to paraphrase a great Hebrew adage, we are all responsible for one another. I encourage you to seek out ways to assist others in need if you have not done so. If you have, perhaps you might consider continuing that support, as the need is great.
The opening verses of Psalm 27, read from the beginning of the Hebrew month of Elul (the month that precedes Rosh Hashanah) through Hoshana Rabbah, offer some hope:
Adonai is my light and my help. Whom shall I fear?
Adonai is the strength of my life. Whom shall I dread?
May we all be strengthened God’s light.
Rabbi Jeffrey Myers
Tree of Life*Or L’Simcha