Monday, December 27, 2010

Hypothetical question

[This week's Haveil Havalim is here]

So here's a hypothetical question:

Let's say you were a former shul rabbi who had a 3-year-old blog featuring derashos, shiurim [classes] and pontifications as well as drivel, and you were contemplating an eventual return to the pulpit. Your blog included everything from your music and food preferences to your thoughts about shul, community and international politics.

Would you:
a) Delete the whole thing?

b) Painstakingly review your 700+ posts to eliminate anything that could be used against you?

c) Let it all hang out there, since you really only want a shul that is comfortable with you as you are?

Of course, it's fashionable to say (c), because our utopian vision is one in which everyone gets to say what they want and be who they want and find acceptance. But is that what a shul should have in its rabbi?

Just a hypothetical question, of course; let's not start any rumors here.


  1. It depends how good the rabbi's blog is. I once read a rabbi blog so good, full of the sort of introspection that I alternately resonated with and learned from, that when my family and I were contemplating a move, I semi-seriously looked into whether the smallish city he blogged from was a possibility. If the hypothetical rabbi suspects that he may have developed a reputation like that, then (a) is out of the running. And if the blog is generally good enough, a benefit of (c) is that when people dig up the dirt, they'll probably be underwhelmed. Also, it makes the rabbi a known quantity going into the process, and if shul politics is anything like civil electoral politics, name recognition counts for a whole lot.

    The problem with (b) is that everything's written in a book nowadays, so if people are determined to find the juicy deleted material, they will.

  2. Part of me wants to say (c) for the utopian reasons you mention, but I'd be open to a charge of hypocrisy, having put a significant number of personal posts on my Livejournal on private view a while back - and I had far fewer than 700 posts to wade through.

    I suspect the answer would depend on whether the hypothetical blog featured much that was potentially damaging, rather than simply trivial, although some people probably don't even want trivia from their rabbi.

  3. if it wasn't hypothetical, then you really should leave the whole thing - it has provided great comfort!

  4. Certainly don't do A. You could always make the blog only open to invited readers and set that reader to yourself, so it won't be public. There's no need to actually delete it.

  5. I opt for (c) but that is because I don't hide who I am. In large part because it is not in my makeup- you know when I am happy/sad or whatever.

    Over time it has just become easier to say accept me or don't. Not sure how practical that is for you, but...

  6. Wasn't the rabbi blogging heavily during his previous shul job also, anyway?

  7. Isaac-
    Archive doesn't carry Blogspot, and a pulled blog will disappear from the Google cache after several months. That said, I appreciate your points about the advantages of a good rabbinic blog, a goal to which I aspire. Thanks.

    Indeed, that is the question.

    Anonymous 12:38 PM-
    Thanks; glad to be helpful.

    True; I did that once with an older blog of mine.

    Sure you do, my friend the anonyblogger...

    Yes, but I didn't spend as much time on things which could prejudice a future search.

  8. I love your blog, but deletion or making your blog "private" is probably the best way to go.

    I'd like to keep reading, but I wouldn't want to know this much about my Rabbi, y'know?

  9. This comment has been removed by the author.

  10. Actually a growing number of people know who I am- so anonymity is really sort of non existent.

  11. Maybe some cliches that apply here. First "You can't please all of the people all of the time." Is there a rabbi living or dead who 100% of his congregants approved of everything he said or did? So an item on a blog might, just might cause a member or two to sniff? And if one of those members dislikes your choice of ties, will you buy their choice? And if they think you shouldn't be saying X in a d'rasha, will you remove X? Another saying applies as well: "This above all, to thine ownself be true, and it follows as night the day that thou cans't be false to no man." Deleting the blog would just be hiding it and trying to deny that it ever existed, hardly being true to yourself.

    Looking for a shul rabbi position is just another type of "shidduch" made. What kind of happy marriage will it be if one part of the shidduch constantly has to worry that the other part will find out that there are "hidden" depths that weren't revealed? Better just to be yourself and stop worrying about whether X or Y or Z will be the deal breaker. If they are, it's the wrong shidduch. The "bashert" won't care.

    Last, this is a blog, not an instrument of evil for inciting revolution. If you are looking for a "normal" congregation then blogs and the Internet are a part of normal living for such a congregation. If you are traveling right on the road then it's blogs themselves, not their content, which would be a problem.

    Last, speaking for myself, whether the rabbi blogs or not wouldn't even make page 279 of the questions to ask. It wouldn't make my husband's list either, and he was part of the search committee for the last rabbi our shul hired.

  12. chava-
    I don't know, actually. I never had a shul rabbi of my own before I entered the rabbinate, at least not since I was a high schooler. So it's hard for me to know.

    Until I'm free to use your name, you're anonymous, my friend.

    Lots to comment on there, but I'll limit it for now to the key question of whether a blog is truly essential for my identity. I don't think it is, so I don't really see this as a matter of being true to myself.
    And to add a cliche to the mix: Everything that is said must be true, but not everything that is true must be said.