Welcome! I am Rabbi Jonathan Biatch of Madison, Wisconsin. "Pulpit Perspectives: My Observations as a Congregational Rabbi" is published every two weeks to reflect my observations about life in my congregation and with my members. The opinions expressed here are solely my own. I invite you to join the dialogue!

Saturday, October 5, 2013

At the Time of Noah, and Today: No Compromise – No Civility

Scorched earth policy!

Misbehavior and anger everywhere!

Accusations of intentional evil to and from every quarter.

…and plenty of blame to go around.

If a Martian, who had no prior knowledge of the human race, had heard about these incidents, she would think that we were a pretty sad species.  For when we read the story of Noah and God’s destruction of all life in our world, we DO have to wonder about how low human behavior can go.

 (Oh, sorry, perhaps you thought I was writing about the US Congress and the government shutdown.)

You also have to wonder about God’s attitude toward us.  In the story of Noah, the Divine One executed a scorched earth policy against the world and its inhabitants, and – essentially – took no prisoners.

We can only imagine the extent of God’s anger, but I imagine that, similar to everything else ascribed to God, God’s resentment must have been boundless, which led to the earth’s destruction.

So regarding the era of Noah, we have to ask: How could it have gotten so bad so soon?  And what did God expect to happen when humanity was left on its own?

I can’t answer these questions.  But I am dismayed at the lack of human progress from then until now.  Sometimes we make mistakes; sometimes we are intentionally evil.  But the result can be the same in both situations: devolution in civility, and a total ignorance of how to get out of the mess.

I have to believe that we have the capacity to learn from our errors.  And I hope that, somehow, we can break out of this human pattern of disregard for civility that, according to the reckoning of the Rabbis, is perhaps 5700 years old.

In this way, we can solve our problems, and not perpetuate the evil and the inertia that plagues us as a planet and as a human race.

(These thoughts are excerpted from a D'var Torah given at Temple Beth El, Madison, WI, on Shabbat Noach, October 4-5, 2013.)