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    The rabbi can’t win – Vayelech

    As the Torah brings us to the end of Moses’ career it is appropriate to consider what a hard time the people of Israel gave him. They constantly complained and criticised. Wherever he went, whatever he did, it was always the wrong place and the wrong thing.

    It is amazing how much he endured, usually without answering back or giving the people what we today call a serve.

    What the Israelites did to Moses, later generations tended to do to their own rabbis.

    Sigmund Freud argued that the Israelites turned on Moses in the desert and actually killed him. Freud was not a great Biblical scholar and had little evidence on which to base his claim, but congregations are frequently Freudian in the way they seem to want not just to belittle the rabbi but undermine him and kill his career.

    I have heard it said that if the rabbi’s sermons are short, he has little learning and has nothing much to say; if the sermons are long, he is out of touch and above everybody’s heads.

    If he is well proportioned, he spends too much time eating at simchot; if he is thin, he is such a scarecrow that he gives you a fright.

    If he spends time studying, the congregation want a rabbi who has already finished his training; if he is never seen reading a book, he is nothing but a social butterfly.

    If he is good with the gentiles, he is neglecting his congregation; if he does no public work, he is insular and narrow-minded.

    If he has a pleasant voice, they say, “We already have a chazan“; if he can’t sing in tune, they say, “He’s a luxury and we can’t afford him”.

    If his wife dresses badly, she has no respect for her husband’s office; if she dresses well, the congregation must be paying the rabbi too much.

    If the rabbi’s children run around the shule, their father ought to teach them how to behave; if they sit quietly, their father must be bullying them too much.

    Someone said, “If everyone loves the rabbi, he’s no rabbi… and if nobody loves him, he’s no mensch“.

    The rabbi simply can’t win.

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