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Metzora: The Fukushima Disaster

Submitted by on April 3, 2011 – 2:44 amNo Comment | 2,530 views

A Powerful Energy Center

The Fukushima disaster, devastated a nuclear reactor in Japan and underscored a truth we have known for some sixty-five years, namely, the incredible power of the infinitesimal. The atom, too small to be visible to the naked eye, was once dismissed as insignificant, but no longer. Today we understand the enormous power this inconspicuous, tiny thing can unleash.

It has power for the good and, G-d forefend, the bad. When channeled in a safe and constructive way the atom can energize an entire city, but when directed otherwise, it can literally annihilate a city.

The Fukushima disaster contaminated foods and the water supply and placed thousands at risk. In times of distress our first priority is to avert disaster and help the victims. But when we have done what we could and sit back to reflect we realize the message this event portends. Like the atom, the human spirit has enormous power just waiting to be unleashed; for the good or G-d forefend, the opposite.

It is a basic tenet of humanism and a central doctrine of Jewish teaching that every human is unique; no one is dispensable or replaceable. Every human can shine, in ways no one else can, if only given the chance. Ask a doctor to build a bridge and you can expect her to fail, but put her in an operating room and you will see her shine. Ask an engineer to perform heart surgery and he will fail miserably, but ask him to build a bridge and he will be a first rate success.

Given the right conditions, every human has an enormous capacity to bloom. Whenever we confront a wilting spirit it is our task to help them find the right framework; never to dismiss them. They might appear insignificant and undeserving of notice, but so did the atom. Give them the right opportunity and they will show you the energy that pulses and the capacity that thrives just beneath their surface.

A Child

This thinking dominates the philosophy of early childhood education. In every class there are those, who stand out and those, who melt into the background; failing to draw attention to themselves. The former grab their teacher’s attention, but the latter are the teacher’s special challenge. Teachers must find the way to these children’s’ hearts and guide them to choices that will let them thrive.

Neglect is not an option because children do not remain neutral for long; they could lose faith in themselves, plunge into negative habits, make undesirable friends, and descend into the nether world of addiction, obsession, masochism and even self hate.  They could soon exude a negative energy that traps them and others in the grip of a vicious vortex.

On the other hand, given the proper attention, nurtured with respect and provided with care and self validation, they grow to believe in themselves, learn how to cater to their strengths and work to excel in their projects of choice. These kids become a force for the good; they build families, become pillars of their communities, uplift with their energy and inspire through their example.

Human begins, large and small, are never static, we are powerful energy centers. We always exude energy; whether positive or negative depends on the guidance we receive.

Earth Quakes

Yet no matter how sound our foundation, we are vulnerable to the insecurities brought on by earthquakes. In every life there is a quake; a shattering moment when our careful constructions are imperiled. It can be the loss of a loved one, a debilitating injury or even a catastrophe that robs us of livelihood and career. At such times we are vulnerable to the insidious influence of self doubt and self blame; emotional venoms that, left unchecked, can spread like a cancer.

Like the heroic workers in the Fukushima power plant, who worked tirelessly to shore up the vulnerable reactor, we too must be available to our friends in their times of need. We need to shore up their strengths and plug the holes that can drain their vitality and drag them down. Left unchecked such poison can spread. First it triggers an internal meltdown and then seeps out to contaminate others in their vicinity.

No matter how vociferously a friend in crisis and vulnerable to depression denies the need for support, we must be there to prop them up. Yes, we risk exposure to their ire and might even provoke them further, but like the heroic workers at the Fukushima power plant, who cast caution to the wind and jumped in to avert disaster, so must we. Otherwise, what are friends for?


The crisis in Japan sparked debate about international energy policies. In the course of this debate we learned about the safeguards and failsafe measures that are built into reactors to avert disaster. The risk of disaster always remains, but the effort to incorporate safeguards continues for that is the only way to provide a measure of safety.

If this is true of nuclear reactors, it is true of the human spirit. Even when disasters shake our foundations we can avert breakdowns by investing in proper precautions. The greatest threat to our confidence and equilibrium is the crushing feeling that we don’t matter; the debilitating sense that we are insignificant and lack the capacity to make a difference.

The first step is to reassure ourselves of the many significant roles we play with the people to whom we matter. It is difficult to lose faith in ourselves when we know how many depend on us. We are unlikely to feel unappreciated when we provide a service enjoyed by many and even critical to some. Finding the areas in which we excel is not only the path to emotional security, but an insurance policy against meltdowns in times of crisis. (1)

The ultimate sense of security derives from remembering that we matter not only to select individuals, but to the most important being of all, namely G-d. Surprising as it is, despite His infinitely busy calendar, G-d reserves time to examine our conscience, moral compass and emotional stability.

He cares so much for us that He wants to hear from us every day; three times a day. Every human being matters on a cosmic scale and in the greatest scheme. We are not only significant, but infinitely so. What happens to us is important to Him. Remembering that will help us believe in ourselves in even the most difficult of times.


  1. In the Biblical day when a person contracted the
    skin condition called tzaraat he was quarantined for seven days. Our
    sages taught that tzaraat was primarily a punishment for the sin of
    gossip. The isolation was the metzora’s cure; being unable to gossip for
    seven whole days weaned him from the habit.
    Sitting in isolation, the metzora can easily grow depressed thinking
    that no one wants contact with him; his gossip has turned everyone away.
    Yet the Torah provides a specific set of rituals that lift him out of
    isolation and rehabilitate him. The message to the metzora is that no
    one wants a gossip, but everyone wants you. Rid yourself of the negative
    trait and your friends will look forward to embrace you