Trembling before GodTrembling before God

Rabbi: Nepal quake a warning to Jews

Ultra-Orthodox leader tells devotees the disaster should inspire them to protest conversions of IDF soldiers to Judaism

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's religions and Diaspora affairs correspondent.

Rabbi Moshe Sternbuch, right, in an April 2012 photo. (Photo credit: Wikimedia commons/CC BY 3.0)
Rabbi Moshe Sternbuch, right, in an April 2012 photo. (Photo credit: Wikimedia commons/CC BY 3.0)

The chief of Israel’s ultra-Orthodox religious court, Rabbi Moshe Sternbuch, told followers that last week’s earthquake in Nepal, which killed more than 7,000 people, was meant as a lesson to the Jewish people.

“The Holy One, blessed be He, sent us this warning from a distant country in order to remind us that such a punishment exists,” he explained in a class he taught last week, the ultra-Orthodox news site Kikar Hashabat reported Thursday.

The reason for that punishment? Improper conversions to Judaism, apparently.

“We must protest day and night when myriads are converted in the army and out of the army by government-employed rabbis,” he told devotees.

“By law they are completely gentile,” Sternbuch said. “And afterwards the daughters of Israel marry those gentiles, against the strict prohibition on forbidden relationships.”

This is not the first time prominent rabbis have roped in natural disasters to promote their religious or political agendas.

In 2012, Rabbi Noson Leiter called the superstorm Sandy that rocked New York “divine justice” for the city’s same-sex marriage legislation, alluding to lower Manhattan as one of the nation’s “centers of homosexuality.”

And in 2005, the late Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, a revered scholar of Jewish law and spiritual leader of the Shas party, blamed Hurricane Katrina on godlessness, saying, “There was a tsunami and there are terrible natural disasters, because there isn’t enough Torah study… Black people reside there [New Orleans]. Blacks will study the Torah? [God said] let’s bring a tsunami and drown them.”

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