Uriel Vigler
Uriel Vigler

We are all Surfside

When I think of a safe, comfortable place to live, one of the first places that comes to mind is Miami. No earthquakes, terrorists, or tragedy … just warm weather, blue skies, endless ocean, peace and quiet. It’s irresistible. And I know I’m not alone.

So when the Champlain Towers collapsed last week, the whole world was horrified. And we’ve been glued to the news ever since. Each time we receive the heartbreaking update about a body being discovered, we mourn with the victims and their families. And we feel the collective pain of those still waiting for any news of their missing loved ones, some of whom I know personally, and many of whom belong to the local Chabad community in Bal Harbor led by Rabbi Sholom Lipskar.

I tried to Google, “What are the odds of a building collapse in America?” and the only results were related to the Miami condo collapse. That’s how rare this tragedy is. There’s nothing to compare to, no history, no statistics.

We live in the US, not some third world country. We have building regulations and extensive know-how. Engineers know how to build structures that can withstand hurricanes, sea erosion, high air pressure, earthquakes, and more. And this is a modern building, built in the ‘80s.

None of the theories put forth so far can explain what happened. Theories such as cracks in structural columns, vibrations from construction next door, barrier island erosion, subsidence exacerbated by sea-level rise, sinkholes and seawater weakened structures all fail to adequately explain how a building can suddenly collapse in the middle of the night.

And yet, it happened. It’s a disaster that defies logic. Yes, we know that everything in the world comes from G-d, but this is one we can’t begin to comprehend. Why did this tragedy happen? And on the heels of so many similar tragedies in recent months: First, the deadliest civilian disaster in Israel’s history where 45 people were killed in the Meron crowd crush. Then three people died (one of whom succumbed several weeks later) when a tiered seating structure collapsed in a synagogue in Givat Ze’ev, and 14 people fell to their deaths in the cable car disaster in Italy.

But just as the tragedy is beyond our understanding, the cure will also defy nature and logic. Even though experts say the chances of finding anyone alive at this point are virtually nil, still we pray and hope and hold out.

We know our Heavenly Father can perform miracles. Millions of pounds of metal have already been removed from the scene. Israeli teams have flown in. And while the work remains painfully slow, we remain hopeful.

As Jews, we don’t give up. As long as there is the minutest chance that someone will be found alive, we continue to hope, to pray, and to demand a miracle from G-d.

This is the story of our nation. A nation which has persevered throughout millennia, remaining optimistic in the face of terror and devastation. That’s our heritage, and it now stands us in good stead. Let’s storm the heavens and demand that G-d perform a miracle and rescue all the people who are still trapped. Pick a mitzvah to do in their merit and start immediately.

We pray for G-d to rebuild the Temple, bring Moshiach, and wipe away our tears. That will be the final and ultimate cure for all our suffering.

About the Author
Zimbabwean-born Rabbi Uriel Vigler has been directing the Chabad Israel Center of the Upper East Side of Manhattan together with his wife Shevy since 2005. In addition, he founded Belev Echad which helps wounded IDF soldiers. He has a weekly blog on current events. He is the proud father of eight children (including triplets) and leads a very young, vibrant and dynamic community.
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