Rabbi Avrohom Gordimer has an article in the Winter 5776/2015 edition of the OU’s Jewish Action titled “Reclaiming the Dignity of the Rabbinate: What in the World Happened and What Can be Done?” He points to the changing role of the Rabbi as one of the main causes of the loss of Rabbinic dignity.
Rabbi Gordimer points out that in prior eras, the Rabbi was chiefly a halachic decisor. Today, in addition to being a halachic decisor, the Rabbi often finds himself in the roles of:
congregational policy guide
lifecycle event officiator
prayer service leader
synagogue fund manager
public relations voice
communal and political activist
…a professional Super-Jew
Among Rabbi Gordimer’s suggestions is that Rabbis should narrow their non-Rabbinic duties. I would like to share my personal experience. Although our Rabbi is not active in all the above roles, many members of our shul do view him as a Super-Jew, and regularly consult him on a variety of religious, personal, shul and communal matters. The line after a Maariv in November can be so long that you might think it’s time to sell your Chametz.
Our Rav also respects the administration and Board of Director’s roles in operating the shul. He works with us and is careful to respect the separation of duties. However, as the wisest Torah-oriented person we know, we seek his advice on almost everything – with the possible exception of where to buy the soda or which brand of tissues to purchase. Sometimes the line of responsibilities gets crossed, but it’s a small price to pay.
As it turns out, there are a few other professional Super-Jews in our neighborhood of Kew Gardens Hills. I was talking to a friend in another shul recently, who is currently being out-priced for a home in KGH, and was considering moving to another comparable community. One of his major concerns is that people in that community aren’t as close to their Rebbeim as we are here. In other words, the Rebbeim there are not functioning as Super-Jews, and he is hesitant to move to a community and lose that important part of his life.
Rabbi Gordimer’s article is an important read and he makes the appropriate disclaimers that each Rabbi and community needs to consider any steps it needs to take. However at the end of the day, I think we need to work towards producing more Super-Jews, and not try to confine their amazing powers.