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Two massive earthquakes and a swarm of aftershocks tore at the soil of Southern California this week. Cracks gaped open in the earth, not just in asphalt but in the raw sod itself. Gas lines broke, houses burned, and it was pure luck that as far as we know, there have been no casualties.

The news this week was on-target for the Torah portion, that’s for sure. Surely I am not the only person who quailed at the thought of two major earthquakes on the week of Shabbat Korach?

Here is the story, straight out of the Torah:

Korah gathered the whole community against them at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting. Then the Presence of the LORD appeared to the whole community, and the LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying, “Stand back from this community that I may annihilate them in an instant!”

But they fell on their faces and said, “O God, Source of the breath of all flesh! When one man sins, will You be wrathful with the whole community?”

The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the community and say: Withdraw from about the abodes of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram.”

Moses rose and went to Dathan and Abiram, the elders of Israel following him. He addressed the community, saying, “Move away from the tents of these wicked men and touch nothing that belongs to them, lest you be wiped out for all their sins.”

So they withdrew from about the abodes of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram. Now Dathan and Abiram had come out and they stood at the entrance of their tents, with their wives, their children, and their little ones.

And Moses said, “By this you shall know that it was the LORD who sent me to do all these things; that they are not of my own devising: if these men die as all men do, if their lot be the common fate of all mankind, it was not the LORD who sent me.

But if the LORD brings about something unheard-of, so that the ground opens its mouth and swallows them up with all that belongs to them, and they go down alive into Sheol, you shall know that these men have spurned the LORD.”

Scarcely had he finished speaking all these words when the ground under them burst asunder, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up with their households, all Korah’s people and all their possessions. They went down alive into Sheol, with all that belonged to them; the earth closed over them and they vanished from the midst of the congregation.

All Israel around them fled at their shrieks, for they said, “The earth might swallow us!”

Parashat Korach, Numbers 16: 19-34

If you are unprepared for whatever kind of natural disaster your locale offers, take these quakes as a wake up call. Do you have water? Flashlights? Batteries? Etc? Once the shaking starts, it’s too late to go to the grocery store.

Shavua tov, everyone – have a good and safe week.

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Rabbi Ruth Adar is a teaching rabbi in San Leandro, CA. She has many hats: rabbi, granny, and ham radio operator K6RAV. She blogs at http://coffeeshoprabbi.com/ and teaches at Jewish Gateways in Albany, CA.

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