As people seek a meaning in the recent tragic events in the Indian Ocean, the Indian subcontinent, and Southeast Asia they all come to similar conclusions: this was a punishment by G-d. Look at the Muslims. Dr. Abu Ziyaad in “Jordon” says that the tsunami was a:

punishment for non-Muslims and a test for Muslims, with the underlying lesson to both being (in the words of the prophet Muhammad to the Byzantine Emperor Heraclius): embrace Islam and you will be safe.

But lest you think I am simply picking on the Muslims we Jews also have this mindset. Take the Sephardic chief rabbi Shlomo Amar who views the tsunami as punishment:

for wrongdoing, be it people’s needless hatred of each other, lack of charity, moral turpitude.

Why? Why must we look for meaning in a natural event? Why can’t we simply accept that we are tiny fragile beings at the mercy of a world that is simply going about its own business? Perhaps it was simply a matter of plate tectonics and not the hand (or the finger) of G-d? Maybe the important thing is to try to /find/ good that can come out of the tragedy rather than grope for answers in the dark. Perhaps that good is a greater awareness of the suffering of others and the fragility of life…perhaps it’s something else.

But humanity is short-sighted and forgetful…and it is our doom to be this way.