Shas Council of Torah Sages Head Rabbi Ovadia Yosef said on Saturday night that the devastating Carmel fire was a result of insufficient Shabbat observance in the area.This is the passage to which he was referring:
“Fires only happen in a place where Shabbat is desecrated,” he quoted from the Babylonian Talmud Shabbat tractate in his weekly sermon. “Homes were ruined," he continued, "entire neighborhoods wiped out, and it is not arbitrary. It is all divine providence.”
Rab Judah son of R. Samuel said in Rab's name: An [outbreak of] fire occurs only in a place where there is desecration of the Sabbath, for it is said, But if ye will not hearken unto me to hallow the Sabbath day and not to bear a burden … then will I kindle a fire in the gates thereof, and it shall devour the palaces of Jerusalem, and it shall not be quenched.(Jeremiah 17:27) What does 'and it shall not be quenched' mean? — Said R. Nahman b. Isaac: At the time when no people are available to quench it. -- BT Shabbath 119b
As Rabbi Morey explains:
A closer look at this passage from Jeremiah in its context makes it clear that the prophet was castigating the Jews of Jerusalem for their lax approach to observance of Shabbat, and promising them that if they do not change their ways, Jerusalem, its gates and its palaces would be destroyed – this is just one small section of a book filled with warnings against the people living in the years leading up to the destruction of Jerusalem and the first Temple at the hands of the Babylonians in 586 BCE. THIS IS NOT AN ETERNAL CATCH-ALL PROPHECY AND SHOULD NOT BE READ AS SUCH. The interpretation offered in Rav’s name and cited here in the Talmud serves to introduce a full page of theories as to why the first Temple was destroyed, each theory presenting an interpretive reading of a different Biblical passage.More this afternoon about a more serious error.
It is completely inappropriate to apply this teaching of Rav to the Carmel Forest fire.
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