Parshas Noach: You Can Shut Down a Government, but You Cannot Shut Down a Jew

The US government shut down this week.  It’s happened before and no doubt it will happen again.  It has even happened in Australia.  But unlike Australia, where the Queen Mum intervened and fired everyone in Parliament, American Congress is left to sort itself out.

While this is certainly a bad situation for the USA to be in, it has been interesting watching friends’ commentaries back in the States.  Some are blaming the Democrats and some are blaming the Republicans. Some are blaming Congress and some are blaming the President.  Nobody seems to agree on anything; not who is to blame, and certainly not how to fix it.

Yet, the situation is definitely causing harm to the entire country, and is affecting all of its citizens.  Millions of people are out of work as Federal courts close, Federal contractors are dismissed unneeded, and any nonessential personnel are put on furlough.  The US dollar, which has already had a rough few years, takes another hit as the US government threatens to default on its overwhelming loans.

We have a theory as to why this is happening: greed and selfishness.  Instead of working together, all the parties are to blame.  And is this any surprise?  Modern Western culture is a culture of selfishness and greed.  The current generation is being called the “Me Generation,” as kids grow up with high expectations and parents are told over and over again to deny their kids nothing.  The media portrays wealth and constant attention as the ideal – even if it means you must turn from an innocent young girl into a sex symbol overnight, as Miley Cyrus has done. Corporate and personal greed know no bounds, as we’ve seen with companies like Enron and with the individuals running the myriad ponzi schemes that have surfaced in the last decade.  And the government is a key player in this game of greed: “I scratch your back, you scratch mine” is the name of the game in a country where banks fund political campaigns and politicians agree to give banks billions of dollars in bailouts.

This kind of atmosphere is not so different from the atmosphere in the times of Noach.  In this week’s parsha, we read about how G-d destroys the world to rid it of the corruption that had so completely taken hold.  G-d saves just one man and his family: Noach, who was called righteous.  He alone stood up to the norms of the time.  He alone did not engage in the corrupted culture that surrounded him.

Today we each must be our own Noach.  Surrounded by a culture of selfishness, we must make the decision to live a life where helping others is our main goal.  Surrounded by a culture of greed, we must be givers.  If we can succeed in doing this, we ensure that our lives and our relationships do not end up like the US government: shut down, stopped up, and doing irreparable harm to everyone around.

Shabbat shalom!

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