Is Life’s Value Measured by its Capacity to Entertain?

    July 2011          
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The Value of Human Life and the Third Temple

Richard Levenberg

What is the value of a human life? Over the course of the last seventy-five years one could argue that the value of all life particularly human life has become devalued significantly.

Last Friday I witnessed further proof of how unimportant and insignificant human life has become. Life’s value in this culture seems to be measured by its capacity to entertain. If this is not the case can you explain the proliferation of reality TV in our society? Just like the entertainment value provided by feeding Christians to lions and bears and other wild animals, dozens of frenzied Americans with too much time on their hands rushed en mass to find seats in the spectator section of a court room in central Florida, intent on witnessing a trial of a young mother accused of murdering her own child. Half of those witnessing this were there to watch the accused woman’s parents deal with the agonizing reality of their child, who has turned against them in an attempt to deflect blame from herself. It is a soap opera! It has become entertainment! I don’t know who is to blame more, the people foaming at the mouth rushing to find seats and become witnesses to this tragedy, or the news media broadcasting it to enhance their ratings. A LITTLE CHILD IS DEAD! What is the entertainment value of witnessing the aftermath of that horrific crime? A little girl stripped of her innocence and vitality is nothing more than a footnote playing out in this courtroom drama. Her life devalued to rabid curiosity. Have we learned nothing?

How does it happen that man becomes so impervious to his own violence and destruction? In the aftermath of the Holocaust many Jews turned their backs on G-d, wondering where He was. They declared that He must be dead, otherwise how could He have permitted the destruction of so many innocents. The question they should have been asking is where was Man?

The technological world in which we live provides human beings unprecedented efficiency and modernity. In many cases our technical achievements have enhanced human life and brought life saving improvements to ordinary individuals. There is an underbelly to all of this progress however that is little noted. Our technological age, for all of its advances has brought about a human distancing that has allowed us to interact less and less and lose the feel for genuine human communication. It is an atmosphere; a zeitgeist if you will that is reminiscent of an earlier time that helped bring about the destruction of six million of our people along with millions of other citizens caught in the crossfire. It was allowed to happen because of human complacency. It was stopped because of the courage of a few world leaders who had seen enough, but by then it was too late for many.

Just like in the nineteen thirties the world stands idly by, permitting the Iranians to import their state sponsored terror around the globe while repeating the mistakes made by Neville Chamberlain in his appeasement of Nazi Germany in 1938. Like Chamberlain, the international community pretends that the Iranian President and the Mullahs who control him can’t be serious in their desire to wipe the Jews from the face of the earth. If history is any indicator, this could happen in our lifetime. One need only look to the African nation of Sudan and the horrific slaughter in Darfur to understand how utterly cheap life is.

The Holocaust happened for the same reason that Darfur is happening. It is the same reason that the Armenian genocide happened and the slaughter of Native Americans, believed to be no more than heathens happened. People don’t care enough about their fellows, and life is cheap.

In nineteen seventy-three when Israel was attacked on the Holiest day of the Jewish year, the country was caught unprepared for war. In his frantic attempts to help right the ship, Moshe Dayan dreaded his culpability in allowing what initially appeared to be a legitimate possibility. Dayan actually pondered the unthinkable. The destruction of the Third Temple!

Life becomes less and less valuable each day we are alive. As long as innocent victims of tragedies like Darfur continue to suffer, and as long as people crowd a Florida courtroom for the thrill of witnessing a spectacle, we cheapen our very existence.

I am spoiled. For each one of my fifty-six years I have lived in the glow of a Jewish homeland. The thought of that no longer being the case colors my entire sense of well being. Were it to happen I would rather not even draw breath.

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from the July 2011 Edition of the Jewish Magazine

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