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?”

(c) Rabbi Jason Miller | http://blog.rabbijason.com | Twitter: @RabbiJason | facebook.com/rabbijasonmiller

Fake Synagogue Sign

Obama Vote for the Shvartze Shvartza Schvartze Synagogue Church SignA congregant came up to me during a break in services on Yom Kippur to ask if I’d seen the picture being widely emailed of a synagogue marquee that instructed congregants to vote for Barack Obama. She explained that the sign said “Happy New Year! Please vote for the shvartzeh!”

I could sense that she was conflicted about this since she was an Obama supporter but also took offense to the Yiddish term used to denote black people which can be used derogatorily.

Well, it turns out that the sign is a hoax. It was made at the Church Sign Generator website. In fact, the owner of says-it.com which operates the Church Sign Generator website, posted an apology (and subsequent update) on the website which reads:

If you’re received a photo of a sign for “Beth Sholom Synagogue” and wondered where this synagogue is, the answer is: it isn’t.

The sign isn’t located anywhere in the real world. It’s a fake photo created with software on this website. There are blank church sign templates which allow people to enter whatever they like for the name of the church (or synagogue, or mosque, or what have you) and for the message on the sign board, and it creates a fairly realistic photo of a church sign with their input.

Someone used the site to create that sign and then they chose to e-mail it to a lot of Jewish people on Rosh Hashanah. I’m sorry you received it, but I’m afraid there’s not much I can do about it.

Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions, but again, there’s little I can do. I can’t control what people type into the form on the site, and I can’t control what people e-mail to each other. It’s literally impossible to filter every offensive word or phrase that someone can enter, without restricting use of the site for people who use it legitimately.

Update: several people have written in saying that they weren’t offended and that they thought it was funny, and that I shouldn’t worry. I hope I haven’t given the impression that I’ve been deluged with complaints; most of the “complaints” were just people wondering where this Beth Sholom was and why they would put up a sign like that. A couple of people found the message demeaning or disrespectful, and I can certainly understand why they would feel that way. For what it’s worth, I personally wasn’t offended (it’s not impossible to offend me, but it is pretty difficult), but I do think that it was in poor taste and could easily be taken badly, especially given the timing.

Best regards,
Ryland Sanders
says-it.com

(c) Rabbi Jason Miller | http://blog.rabbijason.com | Twitter: @RabbiJason | facebook.com/rabbijasonmiller