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November 03, 1989 - Image 51

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1989-11-03

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The Eternal Truth That
Noah's Story Conveys


Special to The Jewish News


his week, we read in
the Ibrah the cele-
brated story of an an-
cient catastrophe that wiped
away civilization, leaving
only one man, his family and
the animals he had patiently
and carefully gathered into
the safety of an ark. The man
was Noah, and his society was
known as the Generation of
the Flood. What transgres-
sion did they commit that ex-
acted God's decree of total
destruction? The Ibrah, spar-
ing in its description, says on-
ly that "the earth was filled
with violence?' The very
beginning of civilization was
almost doomed by man's pro-

Shabbat Noah:
Genesis 6:9-11:32,
Isaiah 54:1-55:5.

pensity to injure and violate
the life of his fellow.
The text is as contemporary
as today's headlines. What is
the most serious problem con-
fronting modern man? Is it
economics, the impact of
technology, concern about the
environment over-population,
drug addiction? All of these
challenges can be met by the
insight, resources and produc-
tivity of highly advanced
Western civilization, if we
could but summon the will.
But one problem hangs like a
sword of Damocles over the
world and has in overt and
covert ways affected the quali-
ty of life in our time: the
scourge of violence.
Each day sees more killing
in the areas of conflict around
the world, murders, rapes and
muggings on our city streets,
gang wars, the brutality that
takes place in the inner city
neighborhoods, political
assassinations and all the
other forms by which the
human existence is attacked,
assaulted and disfigured.
We do not respond with suf-
ficient indignation to the
prevalence- of violence in
American life. The U.S. Con-
gress has yet to pass an effec-
tive gun-control law. We are
indifferent to the effect of the
mass media on our lives and
the lives of our children. No
generation growing up in any
epoch of history or any place
has had to face such a deluge
of violence as modern

Irwin Groner is senior rabbi
of Congregation Shaarey

American youth. Many
youngsters play with toy guns
before they can read. The
mass media blur the distinc-
tion betwen reality and fan-
tasy, between right and
wrong. Movies have become
more explicitly violent,
presenting a pornography of
violence in which every
twitch, shriek and contortion
of the victim is portrayed.
This disregard for human life,
for human dignity, for human
existence itself cannot, but in
some measure, affect the at-
titudes, the fantasies and
perhaps even the behavior of
the audience.

From a moral perspective,
violence is not only a matter
of murder or grand larceny. It
begins with petty crime, a
small insult, a murder of a
man by degrees. In the eyes of
God, chamas, the term for
violence in the Noah story, is
not only the violent crime
that makes the headlines; it
is the thousand little assaults
that we perpetuate every day
against our neighbor's sen-
sitivity, a friend's ego, a
parent's dignity, a child's self-
respect, a colleague's self-
worth, a competitor's equal
opportunity. Every time we
sneer at a human being, we
spill a drop of his blood. Every
time we utter a cutting and
unkind remark, we kill the
victim a little bit. Whenever
we humiliate another person,
we do violence to his
The poor and the deprived
represent another kind of
violence — subtle, hidden, but
no less powerful and destruc-
tive. It is shocking that an af-
fluent country perpetuates
hunger, need and misery in
the slums of its urban centers.
Violence to the human spirit
is the daily portion of those
who live in urban slums with
their sub-standard housing,
filth and inadequate educa-
tion. The lack of opportunity,
the elimination of hope and
the growth of despair are the
products of this form of covert,
but no less real attack upon
the lives of the poor — the vic-
tims of society's indifference.
The story of Noah is meant
to convey an eternal truth:
violence is not natural to
man; it is a perversion of the
process and meaning of crea-
tion, an aberration of what it
really means to be human.
The 'Ibrah says that God per-
mitted man to begin again-
through Noah, for he and his
descendants were granted
another opportunity to
achieve an abundant life.

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