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where has all the good gone?

08/19/2020 11:31:22 AM

Aug19

Rabbi Jeffrey Myers

I try to stay well informed, seeking out multiple sources for my daily news. I have learned that process can be time consuming, as a piece of unconfirmed news turns out not to be news, but a craftily worded polemic by a person or persons with an agenda. Alas, there are many who get their news from social media alone, and believe all that they read without any work confirming the information, thus fulfilling the desires of the original post to spread disinformation.  But what of good news in general? I’m not referring to a birth, adoption, Bar or Bat Mitzvah or wedding (still euphoric), but the reporting of sometimes ordinary people doing extraordinary things. Why do we see so little of that?

I do not know how news reporting evolved to reach the current status of sharing only the bad with us, as those given the power to make these decisions determine what they think we should know. Yes, there are pressing local, state, national and international matters that I wish to know, but all of that does not have to be bad news. The media decides for us what we should know, and it sometimes takes a Sherlock Holmes to uncover the good. A continuous feed of bad news has to negatively impact our psyche. As the Psalmist says: From whence shall my help come?

I learned the other day of two young men who rushed into a burning home and saved the residents, as the fire department had not yet arrived. That’s good news about two heroic men that should be widespread, yet is not. A police officer was called to respond to an attempted shoplifting. When he questioned the suspect, the woman responded that she was desperate and stole five eggs to feed her five starving children. The police officer took her shopping and paid for it himself, without any charges being filed. Another example of a piece of good news that needs to be shared.  There are acts of selflessness, bravery and generosity that occur all around us on a daily, regular basis, but they do not achieve the same level as acts of notoriety.

I’ve read enough social media posts to recognize that we have become numb to the words and deeds of some, as many in our nation have succumbed to this constant dosage of novocaine. We must first demand the best of ourselves, and then we must demand the same of others. In no uncertain terms must the purveyors of words and acts of H be marginalized, told by all of us that their words and deeds are unacceptable, that humanity is capable of far better, that if they have any desire to be part of humanity, that they must evolve to a higher level. We have to shake off the groggy effects of the novocaine in others, and elevate our entire society to begin to strive for goodness.

You would think that the simple and elegant words of Rabbi Hillel from the 1st Century might still carry weight: What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor. It has become debased, and reconfigured into a newer, ghastly rendition: Do it to your neighbor before they do it to you. We must reject the lowering of our society and its standards, and continue to push for better on the path to best.

We have entered the month of Elul, the final month of the Jewish calendar, a time for introspection. Search your deeds deeply, and continue to work on becoming the best version of yourself. Then, bring others along on the journey, to make our society the best version of itself. The alternative is dystopia.

 

Tue, September 29 2020 11 Tishrei 5781