[This week’s Toronto Torah is here; enjoy!]
I’ve been asked to flesh out one point from Part I regarding The Orthoprax Rabbi: The unethical and unhealthy character of serving as a rabbi while thinking that Judaism is wrong.
Some have compared the rabbi to any other tradesman or professional, like a lawyer who renders technical legal advice regardless of his own faith in the legal system. But as I see it, a Rabbi is not only a technical functionary, a suited officiant; a Rabbi is also a marketer for Judaism, a salesman, on two levels, and on both levels a salesman must believe in his product:
• The rabbi markets practice: The rabbi is a role model, his example proving that the lifestyle he promotes can actually be lived. He’s like a car salesman who can proudly state, “I drive one, too.” And a rabbi who is not practicing is selling people a lifestyle he isn’t actually living. The Honda dealer is telling people he drives the Honda he is selling, but he actually drives a Chevrolet.
• And the rabbi markets belief: The rabbi is a resource to answer questions of philosophy and resolve Judaism’s internal conflicts. He’s like a car salesman who explains how the car operates and resolves any doubts about its function. And a rabbi who justifies pesukim and resolves doubts while not believing his own answers is like a car salesman who insists the transmission is fine while hiding a defect in the engine.
This is an unethical proposition; would you buy a car from this man? No one would want to buy from a salesman who thought his product was poor quality, who lied when he said that he drove the car, too, or who concealed defects from the consumer.
And this is an unhealthy proposition, because a normal human being who makes a living marketing defective products as though they were high quality will ultimately come to despise himself.
I suspect that this conflict is also what has led The Orthoprax Rabbi to start his blog. If I may play pop psychologist for a moment, I think he’s trying to find a way to vent what’s inside, to convince himself that he is living an honest life on some level. I don’t think it will work, though; doing it anonymously, and part-time, will not suffice as an outlet for a life of dissembling.
What could he do? Certainly, there are non-salesman aspects to the rabbinate. The Orthoprax Rabbi could become an officiant-for-hire, or an academic, or a writer of sefarim. But he should get out of Sales, for his shul’s sake and for his own, until he resolves his doubts to the extent that he achieves some level of personal confidence.