Q. My rabbi sometimes uses the pulpit to attack the congregational president and board. Does he have any right to do this?
A. It is highly unwise and religiously wrong. The Vilna Gaon warned the Dubner Maggid, “Do not scold the community in public. The Psalmist says, ‘Blessed is he whose sin is hidden’ (Ps. 32:1). Isaiah was punished for saying, ‘I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips’ (Isa. 6:5; Yev. 49b). Elijah was punished for saying, ‘The Children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant’ (I Kings 19:10). I know that King Solomon says (Prov. 28:13), ‘He who hides his sin will not succeed’, but this only allows us to reprimand a person privately. In public you should praise the people’s good points.”
The pulpit should be used for positive reinforcement. If the rabbi has problems with his president and board they should not be aired publicly – by either side – but dealt with behind the scenes, perhaps with the assistance of the elder statesmen of the synagogue.