On my recent stays in the Old City and Ramat Beit Shemesh, I discovered that many of my friends living there don’t have a close relationship with a Rabbi. This is a trend in the United States as well, due in part to the Shteibilzation of Shuls, the multi-minyan big Shul structures, and the fact that a single Rabbi is hard pressed to serve more that 200-250 learned members who ask a significant amount of questions and requests for advice.
In a recent shiur for Kollel students on Taharas HaMishpacha, my Rav mentioned that some people like to ask their questions in this area anonymously. He respects their desire for privacy, but at the same time he pointed out that an anonymous questioner can only get a textbook response. The halacha runs the gamut from pressing situations, leniencies, normative halacha and various degrees of stringencies, and often a one-size-fits all psak is not optimal.
Beyond Psak, a Rabbi who knows and cares about a family, can give advice and guidance on the many difficult issues that arise regarding health care, senior care, schooling, chinuch, shidduchim and parnassah, to name a few. A Rav once mentioned that he felt that providing guidance and advice was a more important part of the Rabbinate then providing Psak.
My friends in Eretz Yisroel and here, without a close Rabbi relationship, feel handicapped by it. I think we need to provide new structures to enable relationships between Rabbis and lay people. The current Shul structures are not serving many people’s needs.
Let me throw out the idea of a family paying about $360 to a virtual Shul which allows him to get email responses to quick questions and phone or in-person meetings for guidance, advice and questions when needed. Can this work? Will people pay? Can we match up people with appropriate Rebbeim?