Sunday, December 6, 2009

Surprise! I really do miss the derashah

[This week’s Haveil Havalim is here!]

[First: Let the record show that Allentown, PA had snow before we did in Toronto. Granted, it’s been below 0 (Celsius) off and on for a few weeks already, and granted we’re expecting snow any day, but to all of my former lantzmen who have made snow jokes for the past several months, I say thee Thbbth.]

Way back when, I wrote about what I would, and would not, miss about the shul rabbinate. Some nine months later, and some four months removed from the rabbinate, I’m surprised by how much of that post was accurate.

In particular, I am surprised to realize how much I miss the weekly derashah.

True, I always said I would miss it, but I never really believed that. I thought that
-the tension of so many weeks of straining for a coherent idea at deadline,
-the sweat of re-editing to convey ideas clearly and compellingly,
-the nervousness of getting up to speak,
-the downer of the weeks when there was no substantive feedback,
-as well as my overall sense that the derashah’s role is way overblown,
would make me altogether glad that I was no longer delivering those weekly messages.

But it’s not so; I do miss developing a (hopefully) deep thought, checking it for flaws, crafting it into a talk that will hit on all cylinders from beginning to end. I miss standing up there and sharing a thought I believe is substantive and meaningful and relevant for our lives, our relationships with HaShem and with each other. And I miss the discussions afterward. The craftsmanship part is still tough, and I do remember the weeks when I thought I had said something thought-provoking but drew no response. Nonetheless, I still miss it.

The derashah really is unlike any other opportunity. Writing a thought in our weekly Toronto Torah doesn’t replace the feeling of sharing it with people live. Delivering parshah classes doesn’t do it, either. The derashah truly is unique.

Why do I write this now? Because next week we are having a Shabbaton at Shaarei Shomayim, and I will be delivering the derashah, and I actually find myself excited at the opportunity. That feeling may change if I’m not ready by Thursday night, of course… but until then, I’m going to have a fun week of anticipation.


  1. Thanks for the HH link!
    Since I've never been a rabbi, or rabbita, blogging is my mediuim for a drasha.

  2. although i still plan to go back to ḥinukh, it turns out i love giving drashas too. good luck rav and have fun!

  3. I've often thought Rabbis would be well served by a common business practice of having presentations peer reviewed. It is often the case that Rich's law of unintended implications comes into play (i.e. what the rabbi feels was well honed message is missed and something else comes across -e.g. a speech about yaakov's diligence in learning shas and poskim in the yeshiva of shem v'ever) this can often be avoided by peer review.
    Joel Rich

  4. Let the record show that we had snow twice in Santa Fe, NM before the end of November. Ski Santa Fe is planning on opening in another week, and Santa Fe Baldy could be seen covered in snow from down in town. ;-) And I still haven't gotten our sukkah down and stored away...

    Personally, if I never have to give another d'rashah, I won't miss it. As it is, I only do so on holydays by demand. The rest of the year we learn Rambam, sometimes something on the sedra (rarely).

  5. Batya-
    Thanks! And good dvar torah/drasha.

    Thanks; I had a feeling you would write that.

    It's all chinuch, but I know what you mean...

    I go one better; my derashos are superior-reviewed, by my Rebbetzin. Helps measurably and immeasurably.

    R' Mordechai-
    Ha! And our snow has not yet arrived, beyond flurries. Now they're saying Tuesday night.

  6. Thank you for always providing thoughtful content. I also thought I'd share this...

    Good For The Jews with special guests DeLeon and comedians Morgan Murphy, Seth Herzog, and Rachel Sklar is happening at the Highline Ballroom tonight! It’s going to be a great time, hope to see you there!
    Dec. 7, 2009
    Concert starts @ 8PM
    Doors open @ 6PM
    Tickets $15.00

    Discount code: GFTJ

    The hilarious music duo Good For the Jews bring their national tour to New York for a night of unorthodox music and comedy on December 7, the minus-fifth night of Hanukkah.


    Jewish music for people who don't like Jewish music.

    No songs about dreidels.

    And no Israeli folk-dancing.

    “Good For the Jews is a hilarious musical act. Don’t miss them.” National Public Radio

    “Like Sarah Silverman and Jon Stewart, Good For the Jews is wickedly hilarious.” Village Voice

    “Good For the Jews: a Jewish Flight of the Conchords.” Denver Westword

    “Like Adam Sandler with a few additional IQ points.” The Onion

    “Good For the Jews is part of the sharp new culture presented by such talents as Jon Stewart, Sacha Baron Cohen, and Sarah Silverman.” Washington Post

    DeLEON makes “Spanish-Jewish indie rock” by infusing 15th hcentury folk music with the entrancing cadences of the ancient Sephardic tradition. They have toured with Gogol Bordello and recently completed a 20-city tour with Brazilian legends Os Mutantes.

    MORGAN MURPHY has been a writer for the TV shows Crank Yankers and Jimmy Kimmel Live. She has performed standup comedy on Premium Blend and Last Call with Carson Daly, and is currently writing for Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.

    SETH HERZOG has appeared on Late Night with Conan O’Brien, Chappelle’s Show, and VH1’s Best Week Ever.