W e’re coming up on the three-month mark since the “Great American Eclipse” of August 21, 2017, the first solar eclipse visible across the entire contiguous United States since 1918. Here’s a thumbnail review of major events in the United States since then.

August 24: Harvey becomes a hurricane three days after the eclipse. The first major hurricane to make landfall in the United States since 2005, Harvey is the country’s costliest natural disaster ever, resulting in 90 deaths and total estimated damage of nearly $199 billion.

August 31: Irma becomes a hurricane, eventually the most intense Atlantic hurricane to strike the United States since Katrina in 2005. It results in at least 134 deaths, 90 of them in the contiguous United States.

September 18: Maria becomes the tenth-most intense Atlantic hurricane on record. It leaves at least 99 people dead, including 55 in Puerto Rico, where it causes tens of billions of dollars in damage.

October 1: A gunman opens fire on a crowd of concert-goers in Las Vegas, Nevada, killing 58 people and injuring 546. It is the deadliest mass shooting ever committed by an individual in the United States.

October 8: Wildfires flare across Northern California, spreading, until 250 fires have burned 245,000 acres, killing 43 people — the largest loss of life due to wildfires in the United States since 1918 — and destroying an estimated 8,900 structures.

October 31: A terrorist drives a truck down a Manhattan bike path, killing eight people, in the deadliest terrorist attack in New York since 9/11.

November 5: A gunman opens fire during church services in Sutherland Springs, Texas, killing 26 men, women and children. It is the deadliest mass shooting in a house of worship in US history.

The scope and diversity of these calamities, occurring in the United States within days and weeks of each other over less than three months, is astonishing. These unprecedented, record-setting events, on land and at sea, at the hands of nature and man, by fire and by water, by gun and by truck, represent a veritable Unesaneh Tokef of tragedy, mi bamayim u’mi ba’eish, mi bacherev u’mi bachayah.

And this uncanny string of catastrophes began shortly after the solar eclipse occurred. The Gemara (Succah 29a) states: “When the sun is smitten [understood by most commentators as a solar eclipse] it is a bad omen for the idolaters; when the moon is smitten [i.e., a lunar eclipse], it is a bad omen for the Jews.”

I’m simply sharing an observation about an unusually rapid series of unusually deadly and damaging occurrences in this country since the rare occurrence of the eclipse. But I have no idea whether any of this is related to the eclipse, and even if it is, what the message might be for us — which, of course, is exactly as it should be for a simple person like me. People sometimes seek divine messages from events like these, and while they may be entitled to take personal inspiration or warning, they really ought to keep it to themselves and not venture where they don’t belong.

The only thing I can say with certainty is that when we do Hashem’s will, we have no need to fear. That’s because further down the above-cited amud, the Gemara itself says so.

And when Chazal say so, that eclipses all else.



MORAL REALIGNMENT I wasn’t expecting such quick confirmation of what I wrote here two weeks ago about Alabama senatorial candidate Roy Moore, but it has come. I had used the embrace of Moore by evangelicals and conservative politicians alike as a cautionary example for our community, because, I wrote, we “lose much more than we gain when allow ourselves to be linked in the public’s perception with people and groups that are religious hypocrites, aggressively antagonizing others while betraying their own loudly broadcast but factually abandoned religious values.”

Now, a Washington Post investigation alleges that besides everything else we know about Moore — the lying, the bigotry, the ignorant buffoonery, and the flouting of the Constitution — this walking, talking caricature of “holier than thou” stands credibly accused of having committed morally degenerate and illegal acts as an assistant district attorney while in his 30s.

He has vehemently denied guilt and seems intent on moving ahead to the election in four weeks, but a poll taken after the allegations emerged shows that Moore’s lead in the race has evaporated. It’s still a dead heat, however, because one group still supports him — evangelicals. It’s their leaders who stood by the president in October 2016 after tapes emerged on which he boasted about routinely committing degenerate and illegal acts of his own (corroborated by 17 accusers). For shame.

Numerous Republican senators and many — but not all — in the conservative media have called on Moore to drop out of the race. And the identity of some of those who have contorted themselves into moral pretzels to defend him should be the mostly deeply disturbing part of the entire story for us.

Even before the story appeared in the Post, the Breibart site ran a story by its senior investigative reporter downplaying the allegations and insinuating they were the product of Democratic bias. Later, Breitbart’s editor-at-large went on cable TV to defend Moore, saying that most of his alleged involvements were “perfectly legitimate” — but morally reprehensible to any upstanding, straight-thinking individual. He added that there’s “only one… that’s been alleged that is problematic.” “Only one,” so everything’s fine and he can serve in the Senate.

Both of these reporters identify as Orthodox Jews. I would hope that everyone in the Orthodox Jewish media joins me in calling their behavior an utter disgrace, tainting our community in the minds of many Americans with the stench rising from the Moore candidacy.

It’s a sad commentary that Orthodox Jews should need to be schooled by a devout non-Jew like National Review’s David French in how to think about the Moore case. He writes: I keep hearing these words from Evangelicals: We’ve got no choice. The Democrats are after our liberties. They’re seeking to destroy our way of life… I’m sorry, Evangelicals, but your lack of faith is far more dangerous to the Church than any senator, any president, or any justice of the Supreme Court. Do you really have so little trust in G-d that you believe it’s justifiable — no, necessary — to ally with, defend, and even embrace corrupt men if it you think it will save the Church?

This is very similar to what, l’havdil, I wrote just before the 2016 election: that choosing winners and losers is exclusively in Hashem’s domain. Our responsibility is to place our trust in Him and make the only choice that’s truly ours, which is to associate and be associated with good people, behavior, and ideas, and to reject bad ones.

And then there is the fact that morally corrupt, supposed “conservatives” will end up undermining the very causes that lead us to associate with them in the first place, as National Review’s Michael Brendan Dougherty writes: 

Every social conservative who supports Moore is increasing the cynicism of American society and justifying widespread skepticism about the sincerity of Christian belief among conservatives… This instrumentalism will eventually make it impossible for social conservatives to defend any of their preferred policies. The country won’t give consent to pro-life laws if they have good reason to suspect their advocates are insincere. And the public will shrug at the abrogation of religious liberties if it thinks these amount to privileges for hypocrites….

It’s time to think about where the line in the sand will be. What behavior won’t you excuse? Where won’t you follow your party?

Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 685. Eytan Kobre may be contacted directly at kobre@mishpacha.com