I’ve tried to write here based on my Shul experiences, my analysis of those experiences, and discussions with my Rav, fellow Shul members and people from other Shuls. In my circles we talk about this stuff a lot because we like our Shul and we want to constantly improve. Even with that intent, it’s easy to fall into a trap where a web site and an opinion makes you an insta-pundit. It is with that introduction that I would like to address the question in the title of the post.
A recent article by Rabbi Michoel Green on Ner L’Elef titled: 4 Compelling Reasons Why Every Rabbi and Educator Should Blog made the case that blogging for Rabbis was important to:
1. Become a more effective communicator
2. Build a following
3. Enhance the identity of your non-profits by sharing experiences
4. Engage your congregants or students
For non-profits, a blogging Rabbi, teacher or executive might make sense, because non-profits usually need to continuously extend their reach, and successful thoughtful blogging can be a good way to do that. However for a Rabbi of a Shul, I think the decision to blog needs more careful consideration.
If we’re talking about posting transcripts or recordings of the Rabbi’s shiurim, I think it makes sense in many cases and I’ve been doing that since 2005 on our Shul’s blog. I would add the caveat that halacha and hashkafa often need to be personalized for your particular Shul, and it might not always be appropriate to post that which is not intended for a wider audience.
When it comes to opinion or punditry, I think that blogging can be detrimental for the Shul because:
1. It can distract the Rabbi from his primary responsibility of addressing the specifics needs of his Shul members
2. It puts the Rabbi in the unenviable position of writing on topics on which he might not have sufficiently retrieved and analyzed all the relevant information
3. In extreme cases, it can make a Rabbi distort the Torah to support his opinion
A question that comes up, is what if the congregants want to hear the Rabbi’s opinion on the latest newsworthy topics? For that I would suggest something less formal like our extremely popular “Ask the Rav” session, which we hold at Shalosh Seudos, where our Rabbi answers (almost) any question the congregation poses.
Let me just end with the always implied but not always stated caveat: “This is how I see the issue based on my experience. Your Shul’s mileage might vary.”