Religion at Bargain Prices

“It has been suggested that our culture is dominated by the values of the market place. The worth of anything is determined not by its intrinsic value, but by what it will bring on the market.”

In his sermon of December 22, 1963, Rabbi Olan examines several aspects of our lives, such as education, personal relationships, especially marriage, and, of course, religion.  In all these, the market value and the intrinsic value are often at odds.

Olan begins with several stories from the Bible, including one in which Jacob “bargains” with God.  The deal seems like a good one:  if Jacob lives according to God’s laws, he will be rewarded.  And yet what of Jeremiah’s question:  “Why do the righteous suffer and why do the wicked prosper?”  This does not seem to be part of the bargain.

The sages of the Post-Biblical period “reached the conclusion that ‘the reward of the good deed, is the good deed itself; that the punishment of evil, is the evil itself.’  It was clear that goodness is a virtue whether one is rewarded or not, that evil is a vice, whether one is punished or not.” 

Rabbi Olan clearly chooses the intrinsic value:  “The purpose of life is not happiness, not pleasure, not peace of mind. It is helping life move forward towards its higher purpose.”  This is not the value of the marketplace, but the value of living a spiritual life, however one understands that.

Follow this link to read the sermon text.
Follow this link to listen to the audio recording.
Follow this link to watch the scrolling-text video.

*Written by Frances Olan.*