[This week's Haveil Havalim is here; enjoy!]
Wow, was that weird.
This past Shabbos was the first time I ever witnessed a proba (Shabbos tryout) for a pulpit rabbi from the shul side as an adult and as a rabbi, and it was more than passing strange.
I’ve blogged the Rabbinic Search before, but from the point of view of the rabbi/candidate. (I’ve since pulled some posts regarding the proba shabbos, lest I offend. I may censor them and re-publish them in the future.) Seeing it from the other side, as a congregant, was very different.
It was automatically weird because the candidate was a good friend, with whom I have a long relationship, but among the more professional weirdness:
• Hearing another rabbi give a proba derashah – I never really thought about the different styles one could use as a candidate; I tended to give a derashah about some theme which I thought would resonate with people, but it was really driven by the parshah. Only this Shabbos did I start to think about the other options – Should the derashah be an overt part of the sales pitch, “Hire me and I’ll do X?” Should it speak to the major issues on the shul’s agenda?
• Figuring out my priorities – As a candidate, I naturally looked at the proba from the perspective of demonstrating that I was a good match for the shul’s needs. Certainly, much of the proba was about connecting with people personally, but I took it as a given – subconsciously, really – that the question on people’s minds was, “Is this the best candidate for the shul’s needs?” But sitting in the pews, I felt much more like for me, it was a popularity contest. “Do I like him the most?”
Part of that may have been because it takes some hubris to think I know what the shul needs, and whether this candidate would be able to provide it. It’s much easier to answer the question of “Do I like him the most?”
• Uncomfortable flashes of mind-reading the candidate, as I zapped from contemplating what he must be thinking to what I was thinking and what the people around me were thinking.
• Listening to the answers to the Q&A grilling and wanting to modify the answers to what I would have said. This was sort of like watching a game show, actually. “No! It’s The Titanic! The Titanic!”
And, of course, it brought back all sorts of memories from my various probas.
I have more to say on this; maybe I’ll re-visit it later this week.