Yoseph Janowski
By the Grace of G-d



Taro for Sale and I’m Buying!

A State Official Refused To Release Water For West Maui Fires

A town in Hawaii recently burnt down, and many lives were lost. It had been Hawaii's capital in the nineteenth century, a symbol of native culture and spiritual beliefs. In recent decades the town had become a catalyst for rejuvenating this polytheistic culture.

The fire was caused by a combination of factors: Strong winds (which may have downed electricity poles that possibly started the fire) quickly drove the flames, dry grass (and then wooden homes) fuelled the fire, and insufficient water handicapped firefighters. Broken pipes caused a loss of water pressure in firefighters' hoses; and the strong winds stopped helicopters from pouring water on the fire.

In past years, there had been an ongoing dispute between natives and developers over the scarce water supply. Many natives believe that the spirits of gods reside in the land, especially in a certain plant called taro, which natives consider sacred. Because of this, they insist on having enough water to cultivate the taro.

On the day of the fire, a company that manages water distribution (and also develops land) asked government officials for permission to transfer water for firefighters, because the strong winds and dry conditions could potentially start fires. At one point, the government official asked the company to ask a certain taro farmer's permission. Because of a breakdown in communications, the company wasn't able to reach the farmer. Finally the government official approved the transfer, but by this time the inferno was raging.

There is debate about whether this water would have helped, since helicopters (which would have used the water) were grounded due to the high winds; and it's not clear if the water would have restored water pressure for the firefighters' hoses. Either way, it seems that a "sacred" taro plant was considered important enough to delay transferring water to protect human life.

In an interview after the fire, the governor of Hawaii said, "One thing that people need to understand, especially from far away, is there has been a great deal of water conflict for many years. It's important that we are honest about this. People have been fighting against the release of water to fight fires."

We recite in the "Oleinu" prayer (which is said at the conclusion of the daily prayers), "And therefore we hope in You, G-d our G-d, to speedily see the splendor of Your might, removing idols from the land ... to establish the world under the sovereignty of G-d, and all people will invoke Your Name." And in the Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur Amidah prayer, we say: "And all evil will dissipate in smoke, for You will remove evil rulership from the land."

We look forward to when, as the prophet Isaiah (27; 13) states, "On that day a great shofar will be blown, and those who are lost in the land of Ashur will come, and also the oppressed in the land of Egypt, and they will bow down to G-d on the holy mountain, in Jerusalem." The great shofar which will herald the final Redemption with Moshiach, when all nations will recognize G-d's presence.

As the Psalmist (47; 2,3) says, "All nations clap your hands, blow (the shofar) to G-d with a sound of song. For G-d is high, awesome, a great King over all the earth."

May it happen now.

About the Author
The author lives in Toronto, Canada. He has written for