“The prophetic faith recognizes God’s presence on earth as well as in heaven…. He asks of [us] that [we] help Him build the good and beloved community.”
Rabbi Olan’s sermon “Religion and the Social Crisis”, delivered on March 24, 1968, is one of his most forceful and eloquent. It develops a theme that we have encountered frequently in these sermons: the prophetic injunction to do justice and act mercifully in the world.
The sermon begins with the two roles that religion plays in our lives: “a priestly function in its service of worship and prayer;” and “the prophetic role [in which] religion sees God as the judge of man’s actions in society and among nations.”
Rabbi Olan speaks often in his sermons about the importance of community in people’s search for a meaningful life. Here he says: “But man does not live alone and cannot even if he chooses to do so. He comes to life through others, he inherits the fruit of many who lived before him, he is dependent upon a community for his very existence. Thus, he is a member of a family, a citizen of a city, State, and nation. The whole world is really his community.”
Finally, it is very moving to read Rabbi Olan’s own job description. The job of those who speak for religion “is not only to bring peace of mind and comfort. They must make men uncomfortable in an unjust world, uncomfortable enough to begin to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly before God.” This is surely an accurate description of Rabbi Olan’s rabbinical career.
*Written by Frances M. Olan*