Thursday, February 24, 2011

The rabbi who wouldn't do email

I know a rabbi who doesn't "do" email - he has a secretary who will print it for him, and he will dictate a reply, but that's it.

I assume this means he is:
1) less reachable for people, and therefore he receives fewer shailos (questions) on matters halachic and philosophical;

2) less computer-bound, because of his fewer communications, and therefore he has more time to spend on personal interactions and on preparing shiurim;

3) less likely to write something foolish which he will later regret, since he is dictating the email to another human being, who might act as a filter;

4) less in-tune with congregants who live by their Blackberries;

5) aware of fewer current jokes and memes, since he is unaware of chain emails;

6) forced to read longer and more thought-out print articles on current events, instead of the shallower get-it-out-quick pieces that circulate via email;

7) less up on Torah resources which are only available on-line.

I'm sure there's more to say here, but I need to go answer email. (heh)

What do you think? Would you want your rabbi to use email, or not?


  1. Often, email is the only satisfactory alternative to endless telephone tag. Email is also very useful when the correspondents are in way different time zones (like Eastern time vs. Israel time).

    If the matter is really personal and important, email dialogue can lead to contact in person or by phone.

  2. This way,blogging, I can tell you for those who read your blog your suggestion to me to listen to your medical shiur of this January on important psychiatric issues was superb.
    It was clear,organized,thoughtful with imporant marei mekomos.
    My only suggestion that there was room for at least two shiurim with the sources.
    The discussion of the sources in more depth,to me,adds to the interest and understanding.

  3. Blogging is only for discussions that ought to be broadcast widely, even to strangers and opponents.

  4. Email has it's place but sometimes it can be easily misinterpreted if the writer is too brief. Also (although it may not be that relevant to the topic at hand), emotion comes across poorly in email (despite use of emoticons). Or even emotion that isn't intended can come across (sometimes a statement can be misinterpreted as sarcasm.)

    Bottom line, OK for some uses but for serious discussions/shailos it's not a substitute for a face to face meeting.

  5. Bob, Michael-
    Very true of my experience, certainly.

    Daat y-
    Thank you very much.

  6. I expect my rabbi to use, and check, email, but not for shailos - we most often use it to coordinate shul activities/meetings, get input on classes we're teaching, and personal messages. Of course, my rabbi is also on Facebook. :)

  7. I think we've passed beyond the debate on email usage--it is an embedded communication tool for the society we live in. It is, however, not the only communication tool, and I agree with those who commented that some shailos/situations are better handled either face to face or via the telephone.

    Nonetheless, I would recommend that this Rabbi learn to get comfortable with his computer and with email without the wasted step of having to have emails printed and then dictating responses to them. That this Rabbi still has a secretary who can take dictation makes him the odd man out, a situation that won't last much longer.