What’s a Rabbi Worth?

In membership based Shuls, determining the Rabbi’s salary is a significant issue. It’s hard enough to determine the fair salary of a Rabbi who’s attending life cycle events, teaching classes, giving drashos and paskening the occasional shailoh. But when your Rav is functioning as a Moreh Derech, a spiritual guide, for a significant portion of the congregation, it’s very difficult to put a price on that.

How can we put a price on someone who: cares deeply about you and your family; is always available; and constantly assists you in applying the Torah’s wisdom to your life situations, both large and small? You can’t put a price on Torah and spirituality, so where does that leave us?

The obvious answer is for the Shul to pay what it can afford, but that number has some flexibility in it, and is a function of what the members are willing to pay for dues and services. Based on my research, a Rabbi receives anywhere from $200 to $500 per member family. The larger the Shul, the lower the per family rate.

A related problem is when the Rabbi to whom you ask your questions is not the Rabbi of the Shul to which you belong. It seems the primary model for compensating the Rabbi is through the Shul structure. It doesn’t seem to be a normal practice to send a Rabbi a yearly check because he’s your spiritual advisor. I think all Jews need a Moreh Derech, but many, possibly most, don’t have such a person in their life. Perhaps we need to introduce non-Shul based compensation structures so people can connect to spiritual advisors who are paid adequately for their time.