Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Ten Commandments of the Rabbinate - Words of Wisdom for My Successor

1.   Genuinely love your congregation with all of your heart and soul, like a father loves his children. Don’t stand aloof at the sidelines and don’t be afraid to experience or show raw emotion. Celebrate with your congregants in times of joy, stay up all night worrying about them when they are in crisis, make your presence felt in their lives when they are sick, down in the dumps, or lonely, and cry for them at their funerals. If you don’t love every member of your community, including your critics, then you’re in the wrong business. Get out of it as soon as possible.

2.  Not all of your congregants will love you back. This is a reality that you must accept or you will be forever frustrated and demoralized by your inability to win them over.

3.  Never dismiss, belittle or ignore a congregant’s concern or fail to respond to a congregant’s question, need, phone call or email. This will be perceived as the ultimate disrespect and will come back to haunt you in the future.

4.   Don’t give up on any congregant for any reason. You’re their rabbi and their last hope and it is your job to find a path to reach them. If their rabbi doesn’t believe in them, nobody will.    

5.    You will form close relationships with certain members of your congregation who will one day distance themselves from you for reasons you don’t or can’t understand. This is extraordinarily painful, but fear of this should not prevent you from building these intimate personal connections in the first place. And make sure to be patient and cautiously optimistic and to leave the door open. Eventually some of these individuals will reenter your life as suddenly and mysteriously as they once disappeared from it.

6.   Be yourself and be real. If you like hip hop, opera, Karaoke, or Steven Seagal movies, there is no shame in that and no good reason to hide it. These qualities and quirks are part of what make you an approachable, normal human being and revealing them will endear you to the majority of your congregants.

7.  Never use email as a medium to communicate about contentious issues or to settle arguments or disputes. No matter how well-reasoned, logical and persuasive your email is, and no matter how smart, witty or skilled a writer you think you are, it is guaranteed to backfire and you will lose EVERY SINGLE TIME. I speak from experience.

8.  If you absolutely cannot resist the temptation to use email to communicate your thoughts and feelings, then by all means, compose the most non-confrontational, intelligent, conciliatory and convincing message possible. Don’t send it right away; instead, save it as a draft overnight. The next morning, open the draft and reread it. Then delete it forever. Or file it in a folder entitled “Stupid Mistakes I Almost Made.”

9.   Listen to the advice of those wiser and more experienced than yourself and consider it carefully. In the end, you must always act in a way that you think is best for you and your congregation. But looking back I have learned that the counsel of veteran rabbis was almost always what I would have thought was best had I been able to see the situation as clearly as they were able to see it.

10. In those tense moments when you find yourself in conflict with members of your congregation, keep in mind that you are still their spiritual leader and you have a sacred obligation to teach them by example and to sanctify God's name. Avoid succumbing to the temptations of pettiness, gossip, vindictiveness, anger and sarcasm. Speak kindly and constructively, carry yourself with humility and grace, and behave in a manner that you know will ultimately make you and your community proud. Then, even if you are defeated, you will have won in all the ways that really count.


Unknown said...

Very well said Rabbi Maroof, you have inspired many, many people.

Dan said...

thank you for sharing this R. Maroof. And number 8 is very funny. I wish I had heard the advice in number 8 a few months earlier...I made that very mistake. When you say "my successor," are you going somewhere now or you just mean whenever someone succeeds you in the future whenever that may be.

Aharon B. said...

Well said, Rabbi.

Nos. 7 and 8 apply to every person in every job, especially those in managerial and leadership positions.

Aharon B.

Mr. Cohen said...

Overlooked Psychology of the Arab-Israeli Peace Process
by Mr. Cohen of the Derech Emet yahoo group, 2014/4/27

In a very famous Bible story, King Solomon threatened to cut a baby in half
to satisfy the claims of two women who claimed possession of the same baby
(Melachim Aleph, chapter 3, verses 16 to 28).

The fake mother did not object to cutting the baby in half,
but the real mother begged King Solomon to not do it
because the real mother did not want to see her baby die.

Arabs are very familiar with this Bible story and they apply it
to the conflict over possessing “Palestine.” Arabs believe that
just as the fake mother in the court of King Solomon was
willing to divide the baby, the Israelis are fake owners of
“Palestine” because they are willing to divide it.

According to this logic, Arabs can never agree to less than 100%
of “Palestine” because doing so would make them like the fake
mother in the court of King Solomon who was willing to divide the baby.


Mr. Cohen said...

Refuting the Jew Haters by Mr. Cohen, 2014/4/27,
moderator of the Derech Emet yahoo group,

I do NOT suggest that any Jew waste his or her time arguing
with Jew haters, for many reasons.

First, our obligation as Jews is to serve G_d, not argue with
Jew hating lunatics.

Second, they can be dangerous, and even if you think you
are anonymous on the internet, you are not as anonymous
as you think you are, and they may find you, G_d forbid.

Third, many Jew haters are fanatics and/or lunatics,
who will never listen to anything you say, or even use
your words against Jews in ways you did not anticipate.

Still, there are rare situations when it helps to know how
to refute their accusations against Jews; for example,
when a sincere Gentile co-worker or neighbor is
influenced by the accusations of the Jew haters.

One favorite accusation of the Jew haters is that Jews
have been expelled from many countries and cities.
Jew haters use this to imply that Jews are bad people.

This accusation can be countered.

When a Medieval king expelled Jews from his country,
Jews were usually not able to take their possessions
with them, so all the possessions of the Jews became
the property of the king, including: land, houses,
furniture, gold, silver, jewels, farm animals, etc.

Even if the Jews had some way to take their money with
them (which was far from guaranteed) they could not
take their larger possessions with them. This permitted
the kings to increase their wealth quickly with little risk.

So kings had big financial incentives to expel their Jews,
as did lords and dukes.

Another reason why Jews were expelled many times from
Christian countries was that Medieval Christians did not
tolerate people whose beliefs disagreed with their own.

Medieval European Christians also persecuted other
Christians whose beliefs differed from their own.
For example:

In October 1536 CE, William Tyndale was publicly
executed because he translated the Bible into English,
even though he was Christian.

Most Christians alive today tolerate people with different
beliefs, but this tolerance is around one or two centuries old.

We Jews should THANK G_D that we live in an era
when most Christians no longer believe their religion
wants them to persecute Jews.