Virtual Talmud

Virtual Talmud


True Wealth

I found Rabbi Stern’s analysis of the economy as a faith-based institution interesting. It cast Alan Greenspan’s (now Ben Bernanke’s) cryptic musings about future conditions in a new light: the high priest of economics reciting just the right words (and perhaps sacrificing a goat) to attain the desired economic outcome.
Faith and the economy is also a tenet than can be seen going back to William Jennings Bryan’s famed speech at the 1896 National Democratic Convention, in which he spoke about the gold standard (as opposed to the more liberal “silver standard”) as being an agent of oppression for farmers and laborers who were having difficulty receiving credit. His speech concludes by alluding to a “cross of gold” on whom these farmers are crucified. One could just as easily imagine the imagery of a Golden Calf: that solid and substantive idol that people need as a concrete symbol and validation of their belief, rather than simply taking things on faith.


Then of course, there’s faith and there’s faith. Rabbi Grossman seems to be advocating an approach to charitable giving similar to the “Prosperity Gospel” preached by Joel Osteen and others–the idea that God wants you to be wealthy and successful and this is exactly what will happen if you turn your life over to Him. The couple with the den furniture, I’ve heard the story hundreds of times and once or twice it might even be true. But in real life (as opposed to trite Chassidic stories) it doesn’t work that way, and we need to recognize that we don’t give in order to get: we give because it is a mitzvah. If we get anything in return, it should be the feeling of satisfaction that comes with knowing we have done the right thing. In the words of Pirkei Avot (Ethics of our Ancestors): “The reward for performing a righteous deed is another righteous deed.”
Somewhere between these two popular and blustery Christian leaders, between Bryan and Osteen, the truth lies: we live in an interconnected world where we no longer thrive by the sweat of our own brow, where markets in Japan and housing prices in California affect the prices we pay and our ability to get loans, where our retirement savings depend on the actions of large corporations and are influenced by natural disasters on the far side of the world. We are radically dependent, and to survive in this environment we need a certain amount of faith and confidence–not that we will thrive and become wealthy, but that we be able to live out our highest values in spite of the pressures and difficulties we may face. These are the best riches we can confidently seek.



Advertisement
Comments read comments(2)
post a comment
Dave

posted February 25, 2008 at 4:43 pm


One thing that separates Judaism from Christianity is the latter’s adoration fo the poor. Indeed Judaism teaches that the extremely poor may not be good since in their constant quest for sustenance they are incapable of performing good deeds.
So in addition to helping the poor as we can let us seek ways to prevent our own material impovrishment as well.



report abuse
 

MeeKaill

posted February 26, 2008 at 11:11 am


We are all adicted to someting or someone, as far as the terroist goes it isn’t even a theory; why should we fear him anymore than the Christians?



report abuse
 

Post a Comment

By submitting these comments, I agree to the beliefnet.com terms of service, rules of conduct and privacy policy (the "agreements"). I understand and agree that any content I post is licensed to beliefnet.com and may be used by beliefnet.com in accordance with the agreements.



Previous Posts

The Task Is Never Finished
It has been heartwarming to read the warm responses to Rabbi Waxman's post asking Beliefnet to reconsider its decision to cancel Virtual Talmud. Virtual Talmud offered an alternative model for internet communications: civil discourse pursued in postings over a time frame of days (rather than moments

posted 12:31:46pm Apr. 03, 2008 | read full post »

Some Parting Reflections
Well, loyal readers, all good things must come to an end and we’ve been informed that this particular experiment in blogging as a forum for creating wide-ranging discussion on topics of interest to contemporary Jews has run its course. Maybe it’s that blogging doesn’t lend itself so well to t

posted 1:00:29pm Mar. 31, 2008 | read full post »

Obama's Lesson and The Jewish Community
There are few times in this blog’s history when I have felt that Rabbi Grossman was one hundred percent correct in her criticisms of my ideas. However, a few weeks ago she called me out for citing a few crack websites on Barak Obama’s advisors. She was right. I never should have cited those web

posted 12:09:08pm Mar. 31, 2008 | read full post »

The Future of Race Relations
As a post-baby boomer, it is interesting to me to see how much of today’s conversation about racial relations is still rooted in the 1960s experience and rhetoric of the civil rights struggle, and the disenchantment that followed. Many in the black and Jewish communities look to this period either

posted 4:04:41pm Mar. 25, 2008 | read full post »

Wright and Wrong of Race and Jews
Years ago, as a rabbinical student, I was one of a group of rabbinical students who visited an African American seminary in Atlanta. My fellow rabbinical students and I expected an uplifting weekend of interfaith sharing like we had experienced in visits to other (largely white) seminaries. We were

posted 12:50:11pm Mar. 24, 2008 | read full post »




Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.