Education and belief are often held to be incompatible. But for me, my education makes it possible for me to believe - the faith I was given as a child felt wrong, didn't accord with what I saw in the world. Only study, and knowledge, and conversion made it possible to accord my essential sense of immanence with the structure and discipline of a belief (not faith). I'm not sure that any of my college Professors would be especially proud to know that helped turn me into someone who believes profoundly in G-d, but I'm glad they did.
Unfortunately, a sense of immanence does damned little to make recent events comprehensible. Yes, I know that Jewish party line, but if you believe that G-d used to act in the world to make sure one couple got to have a baby, its hard to believe that G-d couldn't act to prevent the hideous deaths of hundreds of thousands. Ok, I can almost buy that G-d looks by sadly and can't stop the evil in the hearts of men all over the world, but no man orchestrated this (although a few did nothing to prevent it).
Believing in G-d doesn't really help that much, unless belief comes with some conviction of what in the name of Moses's left nipple G-d intends for the world. And in my case, that little bit was left blank. So I'm left with an earnest conviction that someone is running things, but He's either got an ineffable plan that involves drowning people for fun, wasn't paying much attention, or doesn't much care. Fortunately, Judaism steps in to reassure us that G-d does care, he just...oh yeah, no it really doesn't.
As I said before, the Jew's role in the world is to fix the mess that man and G-d combine to create. We do it with work, and we do it with prayer. My current prayer is "Hello? Anyone home?" My current best work - a little money and some blood donation. It doesn't feel like enough. And it isn't.
I am grateful that Eric's college buddy Prasath was on the other coast of Sri Lanka, and he and his family are fine. I'm grateful that my college friend who was supposed to be doing her peace corps work in coastal Thailand is actually in *central* thailand. And I guess I'm grateful that it wasn't an asteroid destroying all life on earth. But gratitude is a tough commodity today.