I have never announced my sermon topics in advance, but I make an exception this year because I am going to talk about a topic which makes us all uncomfortable. I am going to talk about wealth. And, frankly, I hope to deal with our discomfort up front so that I do not have to spend time on it during my sermons.
Whatever Jewish religion is, Jewish culture is based on a simple premise: the other shoe is bound to drop. Call it superstition or historical experience, we worry about speaking of our blessings out loud because it is only a matter of time before they are compromised. In no realm is this worry more evident than in wealth. Bruised as we are by stereotypes, we don’t like to use the words "Jew" and "wealthy" in the same sentence. But the fact is, we are wealthy, and it doesn’ t help to whisper about it. While not each of us enjoys the abundance of our neighbor, we live in circumstances of plenty which far exceed those of most everyone alive today and an even greater percentage of those before us. How we use that plenitude will determine, at least in part, whether we will have it to pass on to the next generations.
If you are asking yourself how I could possibly give four sermons about money, then look back at the paragraphs above. I never mentioned money. There are many kinds of wealth, and I look forward to the chance to explore some of them together.
For the first half of this past year, I am certain I was guilty of many sins of commission against you. It was a frazzled time of my life and I often responded badly in the midst of it. For the second half of the year, my sins were primarily those of omission, since I was absent from the pulpit and its duties. For each injury and for all the injuries, I ask your forgiveness. Ann, Jennie, Julia and Max join me in wishing you the sweetest of new years.
Here is a brief postscript about opportunities for study this year. Elsewhere, you will find information about the visit of Prof. Avigdor Shinan, scholar in residence for the Foundation of Jewish Studies. Prof. Shinan is one of the finest teachers with whom I ever studied, and his topic, the evolution of prayer in our tradition, is one which will enhance both intellect and worship. Other opportunities for study will be more fully described in weeks to come, but will include "Creating a Spiritual Legacy" (fall), "Swimming in the Sea of Talmud"(winter), "You and Your Aging Parent" (February, in cooperation with Jewish Social Service Agency) and a series of classes this spring with Rabbi Elliot Dorff, my choice for Teacher of the Millennium (the sixth and current one, that is). Additionally, a number of classes, study groups and agudot exist or are forming. An active Jew is a learning Jew. Please join us and each other for adult education opportunities.