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    The first rabbi

    The Torah readings from Sh’mot to V’zot HaB’rachah focus on the work of Moshe Rabbenu, “Moses our Teacher”.

    Moses is the first rabbi in Jewish history. His legacy is studded with great rabbis, not excluding those of the present generation.

    But from the time of the Emancipation, the Jewish people has confused and conflicted the role of the rabbi.

    We have produced two types of rabbi – the rabbi who is a rav and the rabbi who is a minister. Sometimes the two roles are successfully merged but in many cases the rabbi has become a split personality.

    He wants to be a rav, a student and scholar, but circumstances (and the need to make a living) have made him into a congregational functionary who conducts services, solemnises marriages and delivers eulogies, for most of which rabbinical knowledge is unnecessary and even irrelevant.

    In 1966 an American rabbi, Morris Adler, who was shot and killed in his synagogue on a Shabbat by a demented youth, wrote – it turned out to be his last article – an essay called “Who is the Modern Rabbi?”

    He said, “The rabbi is the heir and teacher of the longest continuous history and tradition in the Western world. From early childhood he has trained to look at life from the vantage point of a millennial history. He now sees himself as stranger in a land not his, witness to the discontinuities and the escalation of transitoriness.

    “Jewish tradition defines the rabbi as a layman, yet to his parishioners he is a clergyman.

    “His is essentially a life of pathos. He suffers a score of alienations and must daily battle for his faith and hope. For he is isolated at the very centre of the community he ‘leads’ and serves as the spokesman of a group-tradition when the group has become all but traditionless…”

    A rachmonus auf Moshe Rabbenu.

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