web analytics
November 25, 2014 / 3 Kislev, 5775
At a Glance
Blogs
Sponsored Post
IDC Herzliya Campus A Day on Campus

To mark IDC Herzliya’s 20th anniversary, we spent a day following Prof. Uriel Reichman, IDC’s founder and president, and Jonathan Davis, VP for External Relations, around its delightful campus.



Video Mocking Rabbinic Sermons Was in Bad Taste

Spontaneity and quirkiness have their place but a sermon is neither the time nor place for either of those.
Video Mocking Rabbinic Sermons

Photo Credit: Shmideo.com

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.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

One Response to “Video Mocking Rabbinic Sermons Was in Bad Taste”

  1. Menorah Seven says:

    oy veh give it a rest already. Isnt this the point of Jewish comedy? C'mon its just a joke!

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Posted to Twitter in Ferguson, MO by St. Louis County Police: "Bricks thrown at police, 2 police cars burned, gun seized by police. Tonight was disappointing."  Their motto is, "To protect and serve."
Pro-ISIS Group Says ‘Use Ferguson Flames to Fuel Terror in America’
Latest Blogs Stories
Doug Goldstein

Find out how to set goals and take better care of your finances.

Does this look like a scene where Israeli police might have shot "two Palestinian civilians," as CNN claimed?

As events over the last couple of weeks amply demonstrate, the status quo isn’t working out either

Australian Ambassador to Israel ran to the hospital in J’m to visit the wounded and to donate blood

Kafiyeh in Ferguson

Those celebrating violence with “No Justice No Peace” signs are opposed to both justice and peace.

Pop quiz: The shortest book ever written? “Palestinian History and Positive Contributions” text book

We are the continuing generations from our Father Avraham who was given this Land by our L-rd.

When a country supports ($) the PA or Gaza or “recognizes,” “Palestine,” they promoting terrorism.

There is no question whatsoever that Odeh was behind the fatal bombing of a SuperSol market in 1969

As we Jews returned to the Holy Land and prayed at our holy sites, forces fighting holiness came too

Channel 10 TV published on Sunday a poll they commissioned asking Israeli Arabs a rather straightforward but important question:

Today”s discussion: “The effects of current geopolitical situation around the world on investing.”

According to PM Netanyahu, the bill would enshrine full equality under law to all Israeli citizens.

Master Sergeant Zidan Saif (Zt”L) a Druze from the Galilee, was shot and killed saving Jewish lives.

President Rivlin’s recent statements are only half right, and that’s why he’s completely wrong.

This is our song “Learn to Love;” May joy and light be restored to Jerusalem speedily in our days.

I have a dream…President Obama will go to that prison, Pardon Jonathan Pollard and set him free

More Articles from Rabbi Eliyahu Fink
QuestionsandAnswers-logo

People act not because they think it’s right; they do what they do because it’s what they want to do

Dusk in the early morning hours seen from Mt Meron, Northern Israel. March 26, 2014.

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?

Rambam would also allow charity from a mumar as long as the person maintains basic belief in God and Judaism.

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: