[Post I read this morning: Bin Laden captured in Jerusalem]
I’ve been compiling a list of “best practices” for Shul Rabbis. It’s not hard to come up with pithy sayings and simple advice (ie “Be a mentsch”), but I’m trying to create a coherent picture that includes a Rabbi’s various roles, and offers pragmatic counsel.
One rule I’ve been contemplating is: Be Official, not Officious.
In a sense, it’s just a variant on “Be a mentsch,” but in the rabbi’s job – as in the job of any manager - this can be harder than it sounds.
The rabbi, often in tandem with gabbaim, sets up the schedule for minyanim – which rooms will be used, and beginning when and ending when, for the davening.
Depending upon the shul’s staffing situation, he may be in charge of figuring out when the timers will turn on the lights and air conditioning.
The rabbi has kashrut oversight of use of the shul kitchen (other than where the shul has a caterer who is supervised by an outside kashrut organization).
The rabbi coordinates the Adult Education in most synagogues, and has Yea/Nay authority to decide whether films may be shown and entertainers hired for events.
And so on.
Bottom line: The rabbi is in charge of making sure “the trains run on time” in many aspects of the shul’s institutional life.
In the course of this work, the rabbi is the official timekeeper, official arbiter of disputes, official administrator.
So what happens when the rabbi needs to enforce his official decision – when he needs to tell people, “No, we’re davening at this time,” “we’re using this room,” “that food must be presented in this way at the kiddush,” “Y cannot receive that aliyah,” or even, “this mailing needs to go out on that day”?
This happens daily, and so it invites careless error and disaster; it's easy to offend with an unintentionally harsh tone, a raised eyebrow, an unintended scowl, even folded arms.
If the rabbi does it “right”, he comes off fine, just doing his job, nothing personal or arrogant involved - Official. But if he isn’t very careful, he can appear meddlesome, imposing his will on others, even self-aggrandizing – Officious.
Sounds simple, but it takes work. Any advice?