Some Things Are Not for Sale

“Maybe we should add an eleventh commandment—‘love thyself.’”

In this sermon delivered on December 17, 1967, Rabbi Olan is concerned with the effects of mass market consumer culture on personal integrity.  According to Rabbi Olan, this culture trains us to believe that in order to succeed, we must accept its standards, rather than developing our own.  He maintains that this leads to a sense of alienation from ourselves and keeps us from discovering our own preferences, our own values, and our own sense of self.

Among those who have resisted the pressure to conform to cultures that stifled their growth, Rabbi Olan identifies Socrates and Spinoza, and from his own time, he cites the examples of young people who “seek values which are genuine and related to themselves”.

Rabbi Olan does not recommend asceticism as the necessary alternative to consumer culture.  As he wryly notes, “Money is important and the shame is that so many people have so little of it.”  However, he adds, “Money is only good when it leads to what money cannot buy,” and his example is love.

By love, Rabbi Olan means not only love for others, but also healthy self-love.  “An ancient teacher [Hillel] counselled: ‘If I am not for myself, who will be for me?’  He was not advocating selfishness as a way of life.  If you cannot love yourself, you will never be able to love anyone else.”

As you read this sermon, take a moment to reflect upon what you love that money cannot buy.

Follow this link to read the sermon text.
Follow this link to listen to the audio recording.

*Written by Frances M. Olan and Lionel S. Joseph*