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The numbers are staggering. Every time I look at the online newspaper the death count notches up another couple of thousand. Last time I checked, the New York Times reported that more than 20,000 people had died in the massive earthquake that struck Turkey and Syria.

Since Russia invaded Ukraine a year ago it’s become almost routine to see pictures of crumbling buildings and plumes of smoke rising from cities. But nothing in Ukraine compares to the absolute devastation that the world has witnessed this past week.

Living in Florida where it is warm at this time of year, I forgot that the bitter winter cold would exacerbate the dire situation. It has, and more people are dying as I write this. The Times ran a headline tonight that reads “No More Antakya: Turks Say Quake Wiped Out a City, and a Civilization.”

Usually after a serious natural or man-made disaster, my email inbox is flooded with requests for financial support. Not so this time. I’ve received only three requests for money, just one of which was from a Jewish charity (HIAS).

I don’t know why the Jewish organizations that continuously pelt me with requests for money to rescue those in need have not stepped forward. Do they not care about the people in Turkey and Syria? Are these human beings not deserving of my assistance? And if not, what does that say about us?

It is well known that Israeli aid workers stand ready to help in disasters around the world, and often are among the first, if not the very first, on the scene. So I was pleased and relieved to read that indeed Israel had immediately offered help and it was accepted.

Judaism teaches that one who saves a single life, it is as though they saved the entire world. I pray that the Israeli rescue workers have been able to save many worlds.

I recently learned that the Chinese ideogram for “crisis” also means “opportunity.” Rabbi Jonathan Sacks wrote of this, “Any civilization that can see the blessing within the curse, the fragment of light within the heart of darkness, has within it the capacity to endure.”

Rabbi Sacks said that the Hebrew language takes this concept a step further than does the Chinese, because the Hebrew word for crisis, mashber, also means a child-birth chair. He wrote, “Written into the semantics of Jewish consciousness is the idea that the pain of hard times is a collective form of the contractions of a woman giving birth. Something new is being born.”

It is clear that something new will have to be born in Turkey and Syria, and it will take many years for the nations to recover psychologically, physically, and spiritually from the intense trauma of the earthquake. May we who live in comfort be blessed to remember that we too can and must play a role, even if it is a small one, in this recovery.

Photo: Israeli rescue workers in Turkey this week.