[This is a quasi-rant. I apologize in advance. For other material, see this week's Toronto Torah.]
Ever since my first rabbinic interview, people have wanted to know my agenda.
On proba visits, I was asked a range of interview questions on this topic, including:
• Will you speak about Current Events?
• Will you promote Aliyah?
• What do you see as the major challenges facing Modern Orthodoxy today?
• What do you see as the major challenges facing the Jewish community today?
And so on…
These are significant items, but I believe – and I believed this when I was a shul rabbi as well – that none of these items belong near the top of a rabbi’s agenda. Rather, the rabbi's agenda should be about helping us become better Jews, better people, on a day-to-day basis.
This includes speaking out regularly about:
• Our awareness of Gd;
• Our sensitivity to each other’s needs;
• Our sincerity;
• The depth of our thoughts and our lives.
I want a shul rabbi to speak regularly about emotions, and less-regularly about elections.
I want a shul rabbi to teach more classes about davening and about honesty, and fewer classes about the ethical issues in separating Siamese Twins.
I want a shul rabbi to spend more time on his shul’s youth, and less time on newspaper columns.
I wouldn’t claim that I was perfect in any of these areas in my rabbinic years.
Further, I know that we also need the speeches about the elections, the classes on conjoined twins and the public stands on issues of the day. But these areas are, in many ways, low-hanging fruit bringing easy if superficial returns. If this is the rabbi’s agenda, he may well be popular as a public figure, but I believe he will have failed as a spiritual leader.
And I would add one more note: I believe that the same should be the agenda for all of us “private citizen” Jews.