Don’t miss this opportunity to explore Israel off the beaten track, feel the conflict first hand, understand the security issues and politic realities, and have an unforgettable trip!
A viral-ish video (almost 3k Likes) released before Yom Kippur poked fun at the rabbi’s sermon. The video featured puppets teaching the viewer how to write a High Holiday sermon. They said to start with a joke (see: Why Do Rabbis Make Jokes at Serious Times?), then tell a story, then make your point, but keep it short and interesting, unless the audience wants to sleep longer, har har har. It’s classic lowbrow sarcastic humor.
It seems to me that the joke was “funny” because rabbi’s speeches are predictable and formulaic. Further, this is seen as a very bad thing because things that are predictable, especially rabbi’s speeches, are no good.
People thought the video was funny. I didn’t. But I actually have a problem with the concept of the video.
The underlying assumption behind the joke is that speeches should not be formulaic and that rabbis should not follow a script. I think both of these assumptions are wrong.
Things that are formulaic can be amazing. Baseball is formulaic. Pitch, hit, catch, throw. Political speeches are formulaic. Hit the talking points, wait for applause, repeat. Movies and TV shows are formulaic. Law and Order is as formulaic as can possibly be. A good meal has an appetizer, main, a salad, and a side dish. Predictable. But delicious. Formulas can be wildly successful. Just because something has a formula hardly means that it’s not impressive or worthwhile. Some of the most successful things in our world are formulaic. Ted Talks are incredibly formulaic. And incredibly popular. It’s pedantic and petty to harp on the formula of the rabbinic sermon. It’s not a valid criticism.
The second assumption is also wrong. That is, rabbis are usually decent teachers and orators. But to be those things rabbis should follow a script. Rabbis are teachers not entertainers. We don’t want baseball players to juggle chainsaws and we don’t want politicians to tap dance. Why would anyone expect rabbis to do anything other than teach and lead their congregations? Why should rabbis be expected to become entertainers?
Sure, rabbis should attempt to spice up their talks and not be stiff or boring. But the video implies that because rabbis use a basic formula for their sermons they should be mocked. They shouldn’t. Rabbis must be creative within the bounds of the expected formula but that’s it. What do they expect? A variety show starring the rabbi? Improv? Ludicrous.
Spontaneity and quirkiness have their place but a sermon is neither the time nor place for either of those. Perhaps our society overvalues surprising and thinking different. Sometimes we need to not think different and certainly not to mock thinking “the same.”
Using a video to make fun of the traditional rabbinic sermon just before the High Holidays was not only in bad taste, but it only served to subvert the important role that rabbis play this time of year. It was a poor choice to produce the video and an even poorer choice to release it just before the High Holidays.
Ultimately, the sermon formula is not going to change. Nor should it. Different rabbis will have varying levels of success at speaking from the pulpit but it will almost always be within the same framework. This video only undermines rabbis without making a case for how rabbis could even do it any differently. Rabbis are not going to sing their sermon like Operaman sings the news. Rabbis are not going to mime their sermons. Rabbis are not going to direct a three part play. They are going to speak and they are going to use common speaking techniques to get their point across. They are going to make jokes and tell stories to bolster the attention of the audience. That’s the formula. Making fun of it is just dumb.
Visit Fink or Swim.
About the Author: Rabbi Eliyahu Fink, J.D. is the rabbi at the famous Pacific Jewish Center | The Shul on the Beach in Venice CA. He blogs at finkorswim.com. Connect with Rabbi Fink on Facebook and Twitter.
If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.
Comments are closed.
JoeSettler uncovers the ultimate goal of Hamas in this war…
Why would Israel want a ceasefire. It would just signify our weakness that we blinked first.
Please, the Yeshiva boys should pray and study more and harder for this endangered young soldier!
Israeli’s are a religious people; even secular Jews believe that God is active in this world.
The beauty of a Jew is his relationship to other Jews and his involvement with Medinat Yisrael.
A ceasefire not only gives Hamas a victory, it will destroy the morale of the IDF and the country.
So-called US military aid props up US military industries while disposing of surplus supplies.
If Hamas would simply stop firing rockets into Israel, all the carnage would stop instantly.
Doug’s interview with engineer and personal finance blogger Len Penzo.
Rivlin is thought of as a warm, friendly uncle, one of the family.
In Islam, there is no such thing as peace with accursed dhimmis as the Muslims refer to us infidels.
A reader claimed the Disengagement from Gaza was good, because it reduced the number of murdered Israelis. Examining the numbers tells a different story…
JoeSettler points out that most Gazans want to leave, and most Jews want to go back home to Gush Katif. How about a solution that actually resolves the conflict?
These are the photos of our soldiers (and a citizen) killed in action during the current IDF ground operation in Gaza.
What do we do when we want to be mad at God but we also want God to make it all better? Indeed, what do we do?
There is no song that tells the story of freedom like Shir HaShirim.
It is unfair to judge a 52 year old man with the glasses of a person who lives in a different world.
Adegbile was not making a moral statement by representing a man convicted of killing a cop.
Women learning Torah is becoming increasingly permissive, but women wearing tefillin is becoming increasingly stringent.
When the “offensive” statements in our Talmud were stated, no one thought they were offensive.
Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/fink-or-swim/video-mocking-rabbinic-sermons-was-in-bad-taste/2013/09/24/
Scan this QR code to visit this page online: