Thursday, January 19, 2012

Crowd Sourcing the Sermon? Really?

There's some level of irony in the fact that in the same issue that the Jewish Week notes that, "To this day, it is still not universally accepted in the synagogue world that a rabbi must deliver a weekly sermon, as would a Christian preacher," it also shares with us a priceless article about a "Crowd Sourced" sermon.
For his “Social Sermon,” which he will deliver on a Shabbat shortly after he leaves the congregation in June to start a job at a L.A. day school, the rabbi is asking members of WSIS, and of his wider online congregation, to send in stories, jokes and themes (socialsermon.com) that he will meld into his parting remarks from the pulpit.
For the record, I don't know Rabbi Einhorn personally. But, in an era when shul-goers are drifting away from the sermon in droves (think early-minyan, kiddush club), is crowd sourcing really the answer?
Over the years that I served as a rabbi, I invested a great deal of energy in my Shabbat morning drashah. Like it or not, my twelve minute speech represented the only Torah thoughts that some of my members would hear during the week, so I felt a responsibility to convey a serious Torah concept in a precise and exacting manner. I never, ever just gave a vort, and tried quite hard to speak about an issue that mattered to me personally.

Can the same be said for a crowd-sourced sermon? Sure, it might be shtick, and it might get a chuckle or two. It's interesting to note that Rabbi Einhorn is only giving this sermon after he's already decided to leave not only his shul, but the pulpit in general. Still, I get a sense that stunts like these leave the indelible impression that anyone can give a speech in shul, and that the rabbi probably copies his speeches from Facebook every week anyway.
That attitude, I fear, will not bring people back into shul for any rabbi's sermon.