Saturday, October 18, 2008

Economy & Faith

Many people are looking to religion and spirituality during this time of economic uncertainty (a euphemism for recession). The title of a recent article on the Time Magazine website asks: "Is it Okay to Pray for Your 401(k)?"

My friend and mentor Rabbi Danny Nevins (dean of the rabbinical school at the Jewish Theological Seminary) is quoted in the article.

"Daniel Nevins also recognizes the legitimacy of the 'help me' prayer, noting that the third of four prayers that religious Jews are expected to recite after meals asks God to 'grant us relief from all our troubles. May we never find ourselves in need of gifts or loans from flesh and blood, but may we rely only upon your helping hand, which is open, ample and generous.' "

Christian and Muslim religious leaders are quoted in the article as well.

Rabbi Nevins continues, "When I ask God for help, I'm not asking for an extra miracle, for a great hand to drop a wad of cash on my mortgage." Such supernatural interventions may occur, he says, "but I just don't know how to prove that."

Rabbi Allan Lehmann (left), a colleague of mine who is the associate dean at the Hebrew College Rabbinical School, wrote a Hosha Na prayer for the economy. Since Monday is the Hoshana Rabba holiday and we could certainly use some saving during our country's financial crisis, I include the prayer below with Rabbi Lehmann's permission.

Hosha-na!- save our:

Accounts from Arrearages
Balances from Bear Markets
Credits from Crunches
Dividends from Downturns
Earnings from Erosions
Farms from Foreclosures
Grants from Going away
Homesteads from Hammering
Investments form Insolvency
Jobs from Jinxes
Keogh plans from Kicking the bucket
Loans from Losses
Markets from Madness
Net worth from Negativity
Options from Overheating
Pensions from Penury
Quantities from Quandaries
Retirement from Rollbacks
Scholarships from Screwups
Treasury form Trouble
Usufruct from Uncollectibility
Venture capital from Volatility
Wall Street from Welfare
X-dividends from Extirpation
Yields from Yukkiness
Zedaka from Zero sum games

Hosha-Na...Ani Vaho Hoshi'a-na!

UPDATE: I neglected to include another interesting article on this topic. Time Magazine also published an article entitled "The Financial Crisis: What Would the Talmud Do?" In this article, my Talmud instructor from The Jewish Theological Seminary, Rabbi Eliezer Diamond, raises a good point concerning the ethics of making money: "What any religious tradition calls on us to ask is, 'how can I make money and simultaneously be a responsible member of the society in which I live, protecting the interests of both the buyer and seller?"

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