The chief of Israel’s ultra-Orthodox religious court, Rabbi Moshe Sternbuch, told followers that last week’s earthquake in Nepal, which killed more than 7,000 people, was meant as a lesson to the Jewish people.“The Holy One, blessed be He, sent us this warning from a distant country in order to remind us that such a punishment exists,” he explained in a class he taught last week, the ultra-Orthodox news site Kikar Hashabat reported Thursday.

The reason for that punishment? Improper conversions to Judaism, apparently. “We must protest day and night when myriads are converted in the army and out of the army by government-employed rabbis,” he told devotees. “By law they are completely gentile,” Sternbuch said. “And afterwards the daughters of Israel marry those gentiles, against the strict prohibition on forbidden relationships.” This is not the first time prominent rabbis have roped in natural disasters to promote their religious or political agendas. MORE