Jewish History Blog

Black Friday

Black Friday Shopping Madness

Black Friday Shopping Madness

In the United States, the day after Thanksgiving is called Black Friday because the stores have the largest volume of sales for the year, and the merchants are therefore “in the black” as far as their ledgers are concerned, while otherwise they could be in the red with negative balances and sparse sales.


On Black Friday of 2008, a large retailer advertised that it was going to sell large screen TV sets at a considerable reduction in price. The store would open its doors at 6AM to accommodate the expected large crowds of bargain hunters. And indeed, at 6 AM, a poor, hapless part-time employee opened the doors to a waiting horde of shoppers. The mob of shoppers surged forward, pushing him to the ground and trampling over him. Ignoring him on the ground, they just grabbed their TV sets. Paramedics were called to revive him, but he died anyway. To those shoppers, the value of a human life was less than that of a flat screen TV set purchased at a bargain price.


On that very same Black Friday, there was a massacre of innocents by fanatical Moslems in Mumbai, India. There, too, human life was of no value. There was no strategic or tactical gain from the attack, just as there was none in the recent attacks in Paris. It was just cold-blooded, indiscriminate murder.


The trend in our current times is to try to discover the motives that drive people to kill other people. In these three cases, the victims were unknown to their killers. Their fault lay in being of a certain race, nationality, religious belief, or, unfortunately, being in the wrong place at the wrong time.


There are no more good guys and bad guys left in our world. Moral equivalency reigns supreme. We should no longer punish or forcibly defend ourselves against the murderers. Rather, we should attempt to understand them, sympathize with them and then they will become docile and peaceful people. This Alice in Wonderland view of the world prevails in much of academia, media and government.


The European Union is busy labeling Israeli products while Europe is under siege from migrants, bombings, and a culture war. Talk about misdirected priorities and inimical policies. But this is almost what can be expected from a society that “understands” murderers and evades its responsibilities to the victims.


All pacifist philosophies throughout the ages have run aground on the shoals of irrational hatreds. It is the tragedy of human history that hatred destroys all human values, and certainly any sort of reverence for human life or the right of the “other” to also live unharmed.


To educate a new generation to arise and forego ancient hatreds is a challenging goal. But unless it is attempted, tragedies like Mumbai, Paris, Mali will, God forbid, continue to recur. All of history testifies to the truth of this. Greed, hatred, and their associated vices and evil truly drive people out of this world. The tragedy is that the victims of these weaknesses of character and behavior are also removed from this world. Perhaps we should stay aware of this so that this year will be a different, more peaceful Black Friday.

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Posted in:
American Jewish history, Ethics, Spirituality
Rabbi Berel Wein
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  • November 27, 2015

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