Jeff Seidel

Hurricane Harvey and Acts of Chesed

As the United States and the Caribbean brace for hurricane season, acts of generosity are vital to the victims of these natural disasters. While Hurricane Harvey’s ended the lives of at least 51 Texans to date, its major causality was the City of Houston. This past hurricane ended a 12-year drought of major natural disasters to make “landfall” inside the US, since Hurricane Wilma tore through the South Florida as well as the Caribbean in 2005. In the wake of this tragedy, many people were big-hearted enough to take out their checkbooks and send relief to the people of Houston. These are the acts of “chesed,” or loving kindness that can really turn the tide for people who have suffered greatly from this event.

Since the hurricane made landfall, a range of people have come out to help the residents of Texas. Whether on the ground or through sending donations, the turnout has been tremendous.

The celebrity outpour has also been very gracious. Between Houston Texans defensive end JJ Watt to the CEO of Dell Computers to our President, Houston residents have been feeling some type of relief. In JJ Watt’s efforts, after donating a great amount himself, his fundraising endeavors have surpassed $17 million. An incredible act of chesed to the citizens that he plays for every Sunday of the NFL football season.

Other athletes of Houston teams have been very generous as well, for example James Harden of the Rockets has selflessly given a million dollars. Our President himself, Donald J. Trump, gave one million dollars of his own money to the people of Texas. Michael Dell, the CEO of Dell Computers, has pledged $45 million, this act of loving kindness is not just for himself to give but has surely inspired many other people as fortunate as he has been to donate to the victims of Hurricane Harvey as well.

As many celebrities have given been benevolent in donating and being on the ground to contribute their energy to the travesty, one minor celebrity tried to exploit the hurricane for their own political wants. Linda Sarsour, the far-left anti-Israel activist, tweeted the other day to donate for the reasons of “ensuring that we have the resources we need to organize and fight for Texas devastated by Hurricane Harvey!” Not only was this a gaffe of major proportions, it was an embarrassment to her cause.

The fund that Sarsour advertised was a political action committee (PAC). The PAC was posted as if it was a relief effort for the people of Texas whom had been suffering since the hurricane hit, though it was for her far-left attempts to bring future chaos to Texas politics.As we say in Judaism, her selfishness gave into her yetzer hara (evil inclination), unfortunately she gives in more than one should. While Mrs. Sarsour can depend on exploiting her followers and other vulnerable followers, the focus should truly be on the heroes.

Since the size of the State of Texas is of mammoth proportion, the damage caused by Hurricane Harvey ranges a path of 300 miles (480 km). Texas Governor Gregg Abbott claims that the amount in damage could climb to $180 billion, an incredible spike from the once predicted $70 billion. All of which will go straight to the damage in Texan infrastructure and relief efforts.

Hurricane Harvey will be remembered for shaking Houston to its core. Since the United States has not seen as many hurricanes in the last couple years, though this one brought great destruction it also gave Americans the opportunity to take a break from politics, if just for a little bit. The generosity and powerful chesed that came out of this natural disaster have shown that we are not as divided as we seem to be. Events like Charlottesville do not truly show the sense of community that many in the United States cherish. In the end it should not take a national tragedy like this one to bring us even a little closer together. We should be praying for citizens of Houston, wishing them a quick return to normalcy.

About the Author
Since 1982, Jeff Seidel has introduced thousands of Jewish college students to their first Shabbat experience as well as offered free tours and classes through his Jewish Student Centers at Hebrew U in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv University, Ben-Gurion University in Beersheba, and IDC in Herzliya. He has lived in Jerusalem’s Old City for over thirty years and connected tens of thousands to the Land of Israel. He has also authored “The Jewish Traveler's Resource Guide,” which lists Shabbat placement programs around the world.