I Am SO Over The Snow, But There Is One Reason I Like It

I Am SO Over The Snow, But There Is One Reason I Like It


In January of 1996 – back when blizzards were simply called “blizzards,” not Athena, Euclid, and Pax(!) – I remember watching on television how devastated New York City was after the storm. The city that never sleeps had no choice but to as it was buried under two feet of snow. Kind of like it is right now.

Schools, businesses, subways closed, closed, and closed. There was so much white stuff that they were literally filling up trucks with it and dumping it into the Hudson river – an exercise in futility if I ever saw one.

Then, just a couple days later, the weather warmed up,  it rained, and the three foot pile of snow on my front lawn was suddenly two inches. NYC had never been paralysed in such a way in my lifetime, but unlike with any type of havoc that man could wreak (like 9/11), the aftermath of the ’96 blizzard cleared up just as quickly as it came. Pretty incredible, if you think about it.

All extreme weather is pretty awe-inspiring, actually, and should make us feel rather puny in comparison. Such thoughts could even lead to contemplating the Source of that power. Unfortunately, we often don’t get to that point because the  minute inclement weather appears so does talk of “Mother Nature.”

Who is Mother Nature exactly? She’s nothing more than mankind’s way of taking God out of the equation. Why, even a headline from this current blizzard reads “Mother Nature on Call to Help Get Rid of Snow.” Really? We’d rather call upon a knowingly made up entity then trying our luck out with God?

Many people would, because with God comes responsibility. Mother Nature doesn’t care if you lie, but your Creator does. Mother Nature isn’t capable of hearing your prayers, but the Master of the Universe is.

In Judaism, we see extreme weather as a perfect opportunity to remember the Almighty. In fact, there are blessings we say upon seeing lightening and hearing thunder so the chance to internalize God’s power and awesomeness doesn’t pass us by. Blessed are You King of the Universe Whose Strength and Mightiness fill the world.

Although it’s true that a relationship with God demands responsibility, a connection with the Almighty can also provide something Mother Nature never could – a sense of comfort and solace that enables man to weather any storm.



  1. Why is the concept of God more real than the concept of Mother Nature? I find it strange that you assume that Mother Nature does not make demands of humankind. The concept of a divine being who is responsible for weather conditions was prevalent in many polytheistic faith traditions. This contradicts your idea that Mother Nature is “mankind’s way of taking God out of the equation”. Academics who study early religion suggest that deities were introduced as a way of explaining natural phenomena. Priests made sacrifices to various gods for good harvests.

    I’m especially confused by your suggestion that weather patterns in North America are related to responsibility. In fact the discussion of reward, punishment and weather in Deut. 11:13-17 (better known as the second paragraph of Shma), specifies that the all reward-and-punishment related weather patterns occur only in the Land of Israel. In fact when Jews of South America asked in the 17th century if they could change the blessing of Barekh Aleinu to reflect their new needs as residents of the Southern hemisphere, they were told not to affirmatively pray for the rain that they needed during their rainy season (Shu”t Torat Haim 3:3). Throughout halachic literature, the relationship between prayer and weather patterns have a lot more to do with the weather in the land of Israel than with weather in individual communities.

    What I am really concerned about is your suggestions that weather patterns are related to humans forgetting their “responsibilities”. Are you suggesting that 20 inches of snow fell on NYC because people lie? This is especially confusing considering that the snow affected both Jews and non-Jews, and telling the truth is only incumbent on Jews.

    I fear that you are approaching the Pat Robertson territory–Pat Robertson who blames the earthquake in Haiti on the Haitians’ sins. What sin did the people of the Eastern Seaboard commit to deserve such devastating weather?

  2. Wow, Eliana, I don’t even know where to begin. You really misunderstood what I was getting at here!

    The Mother Nature that I was referring to is not one that the ancients called upon. What I’m talking about is the Mother Nature that metereologists mention as they give the weather report. The way it’s used in secular society today has no spiritual or religious connotation.

    In terms of your second point that I “suggested that weather patterns in North America are related to responsibility” – I did nothing of the sort! What I was trying to say was that God in general has expectations of His creations. Not that we can look at the weather in North America to know what God is thinking and certainly not to blame anyone for the weather that we’re having!

    All I wanted to get across is that when we see severe weather we can use it as an opportunity to consider God’s awesomeness and hopefully be inspired to live in a way that would make our Creator proud.

  3. Hi. Thank you for the fabulous stuff you put out.
    You definitely talk about mother nature as a concept here that is another deified thing in human consciousness, not the meteorologists’ version. I wish you would have just admitted that and then either defended it or apologized and remedied it. Sometimes we Jewish people talk…on the way to what we are trying to say. It is sometimes how we get to what we are getting at. This is a good thing, but to not admit it is mean and not woman of valor-ish.
    The point you make last paragraph just above is beautiful. I can see and believe it is what you really meant to put out to people. I wish you would have taken us on a more clear and simple path to it in your writings, with some insights into how Judaism deals with storms that are simple and informative.
    I for one always say,”the only thing I dislike about the weather is people complaining about it.” Then I wink and smile so no one gets too upset. Cheers to you for pointing out to people that weather of all kinds is to be appreciated. Of course we can be saddened by specific incidents where people are hurt by weather patterns, and respectful of the hard side that extreme weather brings, but to just bemoan it is to miss a big piece of the beauty of existence.
    By the way, I am a hurricane katrina survivor. There have been both incredibly hard and incredibly healing and beautiful things that have come out of that great wind. And if I had to guess who was behind it, I would say that G-d and Mother Nature are likely in cahoots.
    This is not to say that I worship two gods. I…see that as semantics really. To me, there is one g-d, but he may represent a harmonious collection of these two forces that may actually be within him that we have divided up in our human minds. I don’t know. I don’t think about it much. I just know that we are one directed and I don’t worry about the words or constructs I use to let my little self witness that and enjoy. Of course, i would love to clarify it fully if that opportunity came along.
    Also, could it be that we are asked only to pray for weather patterns in Israel as a way of protecting us and keeping us properly focused, but that g-d may still be at play in attending to weather elsewhere. Just an idea.

  4. I appreciate you joining the discussion, Flora, but it’s a little hard to share ideas here if you open up by accusing me of lying.

    I’m not sure how you’ve heard Mother Nature used in your experience, but I can tell you that in my experience growing up in secular America, Mother Nature was never used colloquially to mean a god, but rather to describe a consciousless force outside of man, much like evolution is used. It’s a concept that people don’t feel a responsibility to or have a relationship with.
    What I was trying to get across is that the Jewish view is that nature happens through God and God alone.
    I didn’t mention specific weather related tragedies in this piece as those (in my mind) lead into a separate discussion of why bad things happen to good people.

  5. When newscasters refer to Mother Nature, they are acknowledging that humans do not control the weather. How is this different than you making a the brakhah of “shekocho u’gvurato malei olam” in order to “internalize God’s power and awesomeness”? In both cases people are acknowledging their powerlessness in a natural storm. Like you, the newscasters are acknowledging humans’ puniness. I see no evidence to indicate that when using the term “Mother Nature”, the newscasters are referring to anything but the term’s original (and as far as I can tell only) use as the power behind nature’s course. The convenience of a term like “Mother Nature” is that it does not divide viewership along religious (or even theistic) lines. So long as you acknowledge humanity’s powerlessness in the case of natural disaster, you can understand the concept of Mother Nature.

    I’m actually really surprised that you think that the natural disaster of the past week reminds people to behave appropriately. If anything, when natural disaster hits, most people turn to theodicy. Unlike acts of violence, where deaths can be attributed to an offender’s free will, in the case of natural disaster the classically religious person’s only option is to claim a lack of understanding divine will. How is this inspiring? Why should the deaths and injuries that came as a result of this storm inspire me to “live in a way that would make the Creator proud”?

  6. Eliana, the difference between newcasters mentioning Mother Nature and observant Jews making the blessing over thunder is that in the case of the latter, man is attempting to create a relationship with the powerful force.

    Now there may have been ancients who worshipped Mother Nature and contemporary Wiccans still do, but the way I hear everyday (non-Wiccan) people casually throw around the term has nothing to do with anything religious. It ends up being nothing more than a colorful way of describing the force of nature.

    I think using the term Mother Natre actually does divide people along their lines of belief because it seems to take God out of the equation and replace Him with another entity.

    In terms of you being really surprised that I “think that the natural disaster of the past week reminds people to behave appropriately,” I wouldn’t characterize this blizzard as a natural disaster.

    There were, unfortunately, a handful of deaths that were caused by people not getting the medical attention they needed due to the snow on the roads, but to clump this snow storm in with other natural disasters, like Katrina and Haiti, takes away from what those people went through.

  7. Great post and comments! I do not like the snow at all however. I am very, very thankful that there is no special bracha to say upon seeing the snow!

  8. Whoa! Never have I seen such fiery comments on Jew in the City! Regardless of whether Eliana and Flora agree or disagree with your posting, Allison, you certainly piqued many readers’ interest with this topic. Good job! Discussions (not fighting) separates us from neanderthals. 🙂

  9. Alison, great opening to a thought provoking idea- G-d is in control and at the same time- humanity has responsibilty to behave the way G-d expects us to, not in a “man causes global warming ” way but definitely Humans interaction with each other and measure for measure with G-d does play into this- how? that is a mystery that only G-d himself knows,but the great sage known as the”Chofetz Chaim” said when he heard there had been an earthquake in Japan- we must examine our ways and do an accounting to come closer to G-d when calmity occurs.

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Allison Josephs

Allison is the Founder and Director of Jew in the City. Please find her full bio here.