I've just returned from Moscow, home to the oligarchs, and where the financial markets had been closed for three days. I was there to deliver a lecture on the theme of "The Challenge of the Jew in the Twenty-First Century." Owing to the current climate, this would invariably have to address the credit crunch as well. One local rabbi made me aware that some philanthropists who though very charitable but otherwise are never seen at Jewish events, would in fact be in attendance.

It should come as no surprise that when people feel the pinch they come searching for meaning. I have no doubt that during the High Holidays synagogues will have increased capacity this year as people feel that heightened sense of concern. That prompts me to suggest we ought to rename the High Holidays to "I Holidays"—if only because we come knocking on heaven's door when we feel desperate, when our bottom line gets hit, when the "I" comes under threat. And while G‑d won't ask why you call on Him when things are tough He'll want to know whether you bothered to thank Him when the going was good.

There is a fundamental concept in mysticism that everything as it transpires in the physical is really a reflection of the spiritual. If there is a physical recession – a credit crunch – that suggests that there is a spiritual recession—a spirit crunch.

We tend to believe that the extra hours we put in will make all the differenceIt's an astonishing catch 22. On the one hand we become so over-indulgent in our material pursuits that we think that "it is my strength and the power of my hand that enables me to achieve" (Deuteronomy 8:17). We tend to believe that the extra hours we put in will make all the difference and so we compromise on the essentials – on family and religion – on the spiritual. In other words it is precisely our determination and obsession with material growth that generates a spiritual recession which in turn feeds back into the material as well.

If only we would be more focused on the spiritual – learning more, observing more, giving more charity especially when the temptation is there to cut back – then the material would take care of itself.

G‑d determines already at the outset of every year how much we are going to earn for that year. We certainly have to make ourselves a conduit through which to receive divine blessing. But even in so doing we must never become indulgent to the point where the material pursuit overtakes spiritual responsibility.

Sometimes we need to look inside and ask ourselves, what has become my objective in life? There is something perverse about "more than enough." When we have more, it is never enough. It is always somewhere out there, just out of reach. The more we acquire, the more elusive "enough" becomes.

The greatest irony of today's generation is that the source of the problems is often the very blessings themselves.

"Not on bread alone does man live rather all that which emerges from the mouth of G‑d is how man shall live." (Deuteronomy 8:3). The goal of Judaism is to combine the physical and spiritual in balance. Daily we recite the Priestly Benediction which consists of three parts. The first, "may G‑d bless you and protect you," refers to the material. "May G‑d cause His face to shine upon you and always be gracious to you," refers to the spiritual. "May G‑d raise his countenance to you and give you peace." This is the notion of finding the right balance whereby we achieve real stability in our lives.

Only hours after landing back from Russia, I walked into Synagogue for Friday night services. I encountered a gentleman who would not normally be there. When I inquired he informed me simply, "I came to say thank you," and then proceeded to tell me about the twists and turns of his own week. I couldn't help but think how refreshing that is, and how if only more people would be inclined to act that way we probably wouldn't be where we are, and if more people can properly adopt that attitude going forward we won't return to it again.

May we all be blessed with a New Year filled with an abundance of material and spiritual bliss, Amen.