Thursday, April 25, 2013

Advice for Rabbis 4 of 5

21. “Rabbi, we aren’t paying you to study.” That’s what your board will say. “Rabbi we are going to suck the life out of you—Run! Run! Run for you life!” That’s what you should hear.
22. Teach weekly, not weakly. You have to choose: you can spend your rabbinate as a prophet or you can spend it as a clerk. A prophet seeks to show people how to move toward True North: a life of meaning, purpose, and sacred activism. A clerk is only interested in selling compasses.

23. You’re not a parking meter. “Rabbi, can I have a minute of your time?” “No. You can have all of it.” You’re not a therapist. You don’t run on the fifty–minute hour. You’re not a lawyer. You don’t charge by the quarter hour. You’re a rabbi. You have all the time necessary to feed the hungry mind, clothe the heart stripped naked by suffering, heal the hurts inflicted by ignorance, arrogance, and greed all within the context of Torah. After you’ve made time to study, you literally have nothing better to do.

24. Be a gossip. “Did you hear what Rabbi Akiva said while the Romans were flaying him alive? No? Well….”

25. Be a storyteller. Telling a story is the most powerful way to convey life’s greatest truths, and the most effective way of inviting people to explore them. Read midrash, Buber, Nachman, Kafka, Jabes, Peretz, Agnon, Singer, and others. Then share their stories, and invite people to unpack them with you.

26. Speak simply enough that people can disagree. You want to be understood. When people understand, some will disagree. Good for them; better for you. Don’t hide behind jargon, technical language, or vague arguments. Say what you mean, mean what you say, and be prepared to listen to those who think differently.

27. Never have the last word. You want your people to react to what you say. Give them time to do so. Invite people to ask questions and offer comments after every sermon. You’ve had twenty minutes or so to make your case, now give them time to respond to it. If they ask questions, answer them briefly. If they offer counter arguments, promise to take them into consideration. Clarify any misunderstandings, but don’t argue your case a second time. Let your congregants have the last word.

28. Torah is true, just not factual. Torah is true the way dreams are often true: they reveal things about us in ways rational discourse cannot. Interpret Torah as one might interpret a dream: don’t look for historical facts, look for archetypal truths.

29. Crank it up, don’t dumb it down. When teaching Torah imagine you are teaching grad students not pre–schoolers, unless of course you are teaching pre–schoolers, in which case you have to wonder why you spent five years of your life in post–graduate rabbinic studies rather than spending a few years learning how to teach pre–schoolers.

30. Grok don’t Google. Robert A. Heinlein coined the term grok in his novel, Stranger in a Strange Land. Grok is akin to intuition, Baruch Spinoza’s Third Kind of Knowing. It’s not irrational, but transrational. It embraces reason, but reveals something reason alone cannot reveal. This is the kind of knowing you want to invite people to experience. If all you do is impart information people could gather from Goggle or Wikipedia, they will stay home with their iPads, and you should get a job with Google or Wikipedia.


Maggid said...

See? There really is hope for me . . .

Thank you, again & again,

andrea perez said...

I do not teach preschoolers but I've been stuck in a room with kindergartners and I can't handle them well.Maybe what a teacher needs to know is that not everyone is good for everyone and it's a bit naive to think that we can reach everyone.
So to thine own self be true and find those that you can really connect with. If a teacher isn't learning as much from their students as they are learning from you then you're with the wrong group.