I am writing this blog in a hotel in Seattle. I picked the hotel because it has LEEDS certification and in this way I am supporting businesses that share my priorities. I am here to attend the Bat Mitzvah of a close family friend's daughter and I am viewing the weekend as a nice change of pace.
In the temple for the Bat Mitzvah services, I am enjoying the music which comes with a piano, clarinet, and guitar accompaniment. Both Bat Mitzvah girls are doing great and we are up to the sermon. And what does the Rabbi talk about? Something in the Bible? Something in today's Torah portion? Not at all. He is talking about the sad state of the U.S and world economy.
Now I recognize that in difficult economic times, everyone tends to give economic advice and that advice is often easier to give when you don't fully understand economic concepts and consequences. The less you know the more sweeping the changes you can advocate simply because you are innocent of the consequences of what you advocate. I often feel that many of our politicians on the local, state and national level should spend more time talking with economists and more time studying economics. This is not designed to ensure full employment of economists as much as it is designed to ensure the fullest understanding possible of complex alternatives to move our economy forward.
From my remarks above you can tell how sympathetic and receptive I was to this sermon when it started. But hats off to the Rabbi (perhaps not the best suggestion when it is recognizing a Jewish religious leader) for his advice. He made three critical points. First, even in difficult times, we need to remember that so many of us have so much to be thankful for and so many reasons to be happy. Second, we should never forget that our society and our world have many vulnerable people and that we should make sure their needs are met and they are protected. And third, there are limits to what we can do, limits to what we can spend, and what we can commit in resources around the globe.
I appreciate the Rabbi's priorities. I appreciate that he decided to give this sermon on this Saturday and that I was there. Whatever economic solutions we ultimately implement will be better if we keep this advice in mind.
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Anthropology Open Rank (Assistant, Associate, or Professor) of Anthropology in the College of Liberal Arts